On Monday the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) released a ruling declaring that junk fax suits can’t be aimed at companies that send out “online faxes” – as long as the messages aren’t also delivered to a fax machine. The FCC clarified that the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) does not define faxes in a way that includes these online faxes.

“Congress did not intend the statute’s prohibition to apply to faxes sent to equipment other than a telephone facsimile machine,” stated the agency.

Emailed Faxes Exemption

The FCC added that because email inboxes do not function the same way as fax machines do, unsolicited messages by online fax services don’t cause the same harm to consumers – which is what the TCPA is meant to combat. However, the TCPA still applies to messages sent to fax machines from other devices like computers.

Originally, the junk fax provision of the TCPA was created to prevent companies from 1) flipping advertising costs onto consumers with the costs of paper and ink taken up by faxes, and 2) occupying machines and making them too busy to receive actual faxes needed by consumers.

This ruling, coming two years after the agency was first requested to clarify its position on junk faxes, will certainly cement the FCC’s position on the issue and hopefully prevent the number of unsolicited fax suits under the TCPA.

Ensure TCPA Compliance

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