Mass fax marketing campaigns can be a promising way to reach a wide audience rather quickly. However, it can also get you into a lot of trouble.
Last week, a federal lawsuit was raised against the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, an NFL team with struggling attendance numbers, arguing that the franchise violated the Junk Fax Prevention Act of 2005 by sending thousands upon thousands of unsolicited faxes advertising Buccaneers tickets. The lawsuit asserts that the team sent out a total of 180,000 junk faxes, and at a potential $500 fine per fax under the JFPA, the Buccaneers could be facing up to $90 million in penalties – if the court determines that these junk faxes were sent intentionally, that number could jump to $270 million.
The class-action lawsuit was filed by Cin-Q Automobiles, a Tampa-based business who alleges that it has been receiving these unwanted faxes since 2009, though the Bucs say the practice ended in 2010 after an initial suit was filed in state court. The complainants contend that the Bucs used a Web-based fax company called FaxQom.com to spam marketing materials to thousands of local businesses. They also maintain that the junk faxes caused the company "to lose paper and ink/toner as a result”, saying that the Bucs’ actions “prevented Plaintiff's fax machine from being used for Plaintiff's business purposes during the time the Defendants were using Plaintiff's fax machine for Defendants' illegal purpose."
Image via Shutterstock
With this in mind, it’s important that businesses take the appropriate steps before embarking on a fax marketing campaign. Fortunately, the Direct Marketing Association has already spelled out the basic guidelines for maintaining regulatory fax compliance.
Number one, it must be understood that all faxes that contain unsolicited advertisements are subject the Junk Fax Prevention Act. Under this act, businesses are required to meet a number of criteria to maintain compliance. All faxes must include the date and time sent, the name of the sender, and the telephone number of the fax machine or sender to appear either on the first page or in the margin of each page sent. Most importantly, the faxed advertisement must include an opt-out notice on the first page of the fax, and must be clear, conspicuous, and separate from the advertising copy and all other disclosures.
Moreover, the opt-out notice should provide clear instructions to the recipient concerning the right to opt out and the procedures available to do so. These procedures must include a domestic telephone number, a separate, domestic fax number, and at least one cost-free mechanism, which may be either of these numbers or in addition to them. Toll-free numbers (phone or fax), website addresses, and e-mail addresses are all considered cost-free.
Once received, opt-out requests must be honored in the “shortest reasonable time”, which usually means within 30 days of the request.
To whom you’re permitted to fax these advertisements is a bit trickier, the details of which will be covered in Part II of this article.
Edited by Ashley Caputo