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Published: Wednesday, 8/20/2003

Area business groups relieved at junk-fax delay

BY HOMER BRICKEY
BLADE SENIOR BUSINESS WRITER

A new Federal Communications Commission rule limiting “junk faxes” was supposed to go into effect next Monday. To most business owners that probably sounded like a good thing.

But heads of a number of Toledo-area business groups and associations said yesterday they are relieved that the FCC announced at the beginning of this week that it would put off implementing the regulation for 16 months, until Jan. 1, 2005, to give nonprofit organizations more time to comply with the requirement that recipients of certain types of unsolicited faxes sign consent forms in advance.

In the past month, the FCC received 12 petitions asking the commission to delay the new fax rules.

The agency announced yesterday that it had unanimously approved the delay, although a spokesman suggested this was unrelated to the petitions.

“This gives us a little breathing room,” said Richard Eppstein, president of the Better Business Bureau in the Toledo area. “The law had been interpreted so tightly, we were really nervous about it.”

The FCC rule - which stemmed from the same legislation that established the national Do-Not-Call Registry this summer to limit telemarketer calls - would have required advance consent for faxes promoting seminars or any meetings incurring a cost; renewal notices and invoices; order forms for products or services; and certain surveys.

“It was crazy,” said Mr. Eppstein, who added that he waited as long as he could for the commission to postpone the deadline, but having heard nothing Monday, he decided to send out 3,000 faxes to most of the bureau's 4,500 area members, urging them to sign the authorizations.

“We probably got back 1,000 of them so far,” he said yesterday.

The Toledo Area Chamber of Commerce mailed out nearly 5,000 letters Thursday requesting fax authorization forms from its 4,000 members and hundreds of media and governmental contacts, said Jan Aguilar, manager of communications.

She said about 10 percent had responded by yesterday.

Jack Hollister, president of the 600-member Employers' Association in Sylvania, said, “We have been working diligently to get consent forms.”

He said about half of his group's membership had responded, but it's still “a great relief” not to have to meet the original Monday deadline.

He noted that many of the members have multiple faxes, and some have computer-fax machines - and each number requires a separate authorization.

“Nobody wants to protect the public more than us,” said the BBB's Mr. Eppstein.

“But sometimes there are unintended consequences. If the [deadline] hadn't changed, we would have to go through every file. This would have been quite a project.”



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