FCC rules under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the Junk Fax Prevention Act prohibit most unsolicited fax advertisements.
Fax rules and established business relationship exemption
FCC rules prohibit sending unsolicited advertisements to any fax machine - both businesses and residences - without the recipient's prior express invitation or permission. Fax advertisements may be sent to recipients with whom the sender has an established business relationship (EBR), as long as the fax number was provided voluntarily by the recipient. A fax advertisement may be sent to an EBR customer if the sender also:
- obtains the fax number directly from the recipient through, for example, an application, contact information form or membership renewal form
- or obtains the fax number from the recipient's own directory, advertisement or site on the Internet, unless the recipient has noted on such materials that it does not accept unsolicited advertisements at the fax number in question
- or has taken reasonable steps to verify that the recipient consented to have the number listed, if obtained from a directory or other source of information compiled by a third party
If the sender had an EBR with the recipient and possessed the recipient's fax number before July 9, 2005 (the date the Junk Fax Prevention Act became law), the sender may send the fax advertisements without demonstrating how the number was obtained.
Opt-out notice requirements
Permissible fax advertisements must provide notice and contact information on the fax that allow recipients to "opt-out" of future faxes. The notice must:
- be clear and conspicuous and on the first page of the advertisement
- state that the recipient may make a request to the sender not to send any future faxes and that failure to comply with the request within 30 days is unlawful
- include a telephone number, fax number, and cost-free mechanism (including a toll-free telephone number, local number for local recipients, toll-free fax number, website address or email address) to opt-out of faxes, which must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
Senders must honor requests not to send further faxes within 30 days. They are also prohibited from sending future fax advertisements unless the recipient subsequently provides prior express permission.
Opt-out requests by consumers
To stop unwanted fax advertisements, your "opt-out" request must:
- identify the fax number or numbers to which it relates
- be sent to the telephone number, fax number, website address or email address identified on the fax advertisement
If you change your mind about receiving fax advertisements, you can subsequently grant express permission to receive faxes from a particular sender.
Often fax advertisements are sent in bulk on behalf of a business or entity by separate professional fax broadcasters. Generally, the person or business on whose behalf a fax is sent or whose property, goods or services are advertised is liable for a violation of the junk fax rules, even if the person or business did not physically send the fax. A fax broadcaster also may be liable if it has a "high degree of involvement" in the sender's fax message, such as supplying the fax numbers to which the message is sent, providing a source of fax numbers, making representations about the legality of faxing to those numbers, or advising about how to comply with the junk fax rules.
Fax numbers and the National Do-Not-Call List
Registering a home phone number on the national Do-Not-Call list prevents only telephone solicitations directed to that number, not fax advertisements to your home or business fax number. For more information on telephone solicitation rules, see our consumer guide, Unwanted Telephone Marketing Calls, or visit the National Do-Not-Call Registry website.
How the FCC can help
The FCC can issue warning citations and impose fines against companies violating or suspected of violating the junk fax rules, but does not award individual damages. If you have received a fax advertisement from someone who does not have an EBR with you or to whom you have not provided prior express permission, you can file a complaint with the FCC.
Filing a complaint
You have multiple options for filing a complaint with the FCC:
- File a complaint online
- By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322)
- By mail (please include include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible):
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20554
You can file complaints with your state authorities, including your local or state consumer protection office or your state Attorney General's office. Contact information for these organizations should be in the blue pages or government section of your local telephone directory.
You can also bring a private suit against the violator in an appropriate court in your state. Through a private suit, you can either recover the actual monetary loss that resulted from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act violation, or receive up to $500 in damages for each violation, whichever is greater. The court may triple the damages for each violation if it finds that the defendant willingly or knowingly committed the violation. Filing a complaint with the FCC does not prevent you from also bringing a suit in state court.
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Fax Advertising Guide (pdf)Updated: December 30, 2014