Fax marketing is a cheap way of reaching out to customers and if it’s done right, then it can even be more effective than targeted internet ads or other forms of direct marketing. However, just like any marketing campaigns, fax broadcasting should also be carried out carefully otherwise you may end up with a detrimental reputation a fax spammer. And that’s actually something that can stigmatize a business and as a result drive it into the ground thanks to various penalties and the negative effects from a poor image of the company.
This is why it’s of utmost importance to get familiar with fax marketing laws that regulate the world of fax broadcasting in a rather strict manner. Despite that strictness, however, these laws are for the benefit of both parties of the transmission, since customers won’t feel like they’re being spammed and you can continue promoting your business via fax.
How Is Fax Marketing Regulated?
According to the TCPA – which established the ground rules for fax broadcasting campaigns from any device or service capable of faxing – it’s strictly illegal to send an unsolicited facsimile to either individuals or businesses, unless the receiver has an established business relationship (EBR) with the sender or has given express, prior consent to be on the fax mailing list.
The JFPA, on the other hand, is an amendment to the TCPA that clarifies how addressees’ fax numbers should be legally obtained for a fax campaign and details the options that should be provided for them in order to stop receiving faxes.
Fax Marketing the Lawful Way
With a few exceptions – which includes debt collection, business transactions, and certain requests for donations – all faxes are deemed unsolicited, unless they comply with regulations. Learning these rules requires extra effort from a business, but once they are understood it’s not hard to execute lawful fax campaigns.
Obtaining Fax Numbers
With the exception of those who became customers before July 9 2005 – when the JFPA came into effect – addressees should only receive fax ads if their fax numbers are obtained in one of the following ways:
- Directly from them during the establishment of business relationship.
- From third parties to which recipients verifiably gave their consent to handle their data publicity.
- From the clients’ own publicly available directory, advertisement or website, unless there is a clear notice prohibiting the sending of unsolicited fax.
The Opt-out Notice
Aside from collecting fax numbers legally, businesses are also obliged to include a so-called opt-out notice on any fax ads. This disclaimer has to also comply with the following rules in both the U.S. and Canada:
- It should appear at the top or bottom of the first page of the fax – alongside the date of sending, the business’s name, and contact information – and should be separated from the ad itself.
- It should clearly inform the recipient of their right to unsubscribe and how opting out can be performed.
- It should list the various opt-out communication channels, which should include a local phone number, a separate fax number, and at least one free option like a toll-free number or an email address. Regardless of the method you provide, all communication channels should be available for customers 24/7.
Note that the very moment a receiver unsubscribes, businesses have a maximum of 30 days to process the opt-out request and remove the fax number in question.
Granted, it takes a lot of effort and preparation to make sure that a fax campaign is executed in accordance with the law, however it’s better be safe than sorry especially when considering that sending unsolicited faxes – even by accident – could have some dire consequences.
In that regard, customers who continue receiving unwanted fax ads – whether they have already unsubscribed from a fax mailing list or weren’t on that list to begin with – have two options against a violating company. The first option is to file a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission, which will then contact the business with a cease and desist order. The other method is to take the case to court, in which case – if the company is found to be guilty – then a fine of $500 per fax is administered, an amount that is automatically tripled if it turns out that the business violated the law on purpose.