LEGISLATION RECOGNIZING EXEMPTION TO ANTI-FAX LAW PASSES HOUSE COMMITTEE, INTRODUCED IN SENATE
Big “I” aggressively works for exemption, which will be crucial to members and associations
WASHINGTON, D.C., June 25—After a year of aggressive education and lobbying by the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (the Big “I”) and others, a bill to exempt existing business relationships from anti-fax laws has advanced in the House and has been introduced in the Senate.
Introduced by Rep. Fred Upton (R-Mich.), Energy and Commerce Committee Ranking Member John Dingell (D-Mich.), and a number of members from both parties, the Junk Fax Prevention Act (H.R. 4600) would reverse an onerous June 2003 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) rule and exempt all commercial faxes to recipients with whom an existing business relationship exists. The bill was approved by the House panel yesterday.
Separately, Sens. Gordon Smith (R-Ore.), Ernest Hollings (D-S.C.), George Allen (R-Va.) and John Sununu (R-N.H.) introduced a companion bill (S. 2603) by the same title in the Senate yesterday.
The Big “I” was joined by several coalition partners in pushing for this exemption.
This bill, if it becomes law, will provide a crucial exemption for businesses and associations like the Big “I,” who need to be able to send commercial faxes to individuals with whom they do business. The bill also protects consumers by creating an opt-out mechanism for those who wish to be removed from fax lists.
“This legislation creates a crucial exemption that will help the Big ‘I,’ other associations and their members conduct their work more efficiently and effectively while still protecting the wishes of consumers,” says Patrick O’Brien, Big ‘I’ Washington representative and grassroots coordinator. “This is a very positive development, because without the exemption, independent agencies, associations and other businesses that rely on faxes as a vital means of communication with their clients could face increased operating costs and other serious economic repercussions.
“We commend the House Energy and Commerce Committee for advancing this important legislation as well as the senators who introduced their companion bill, and we urge the entire House and Senate to take it up and pass it expeditiously.”
Without this exemption, all commercial-in-nature faxes would require expressed written permission from the recipient for distribution, and violators of the rule could face fines of $11,000 per incident.
Under the terms of the bill, faxes of a commercial nature would be allowed without the written permission of the recipient if there is an existing business relationship and a “clear and conspicuous” opt-out selection is presented on the cover sheet.
The bill does not establish a timeline for existing business relationships, but it does establish rulemaking authority for the FCC to determine within three years whether to limit the duration of existing business relationships. It is expected that if the commission limits the timeframe, the rule will permit relationships that were in existence over the previous five to seven years at the time of the fax communication.
Founded in 1896, IIABA is the nation’s oldest and largest national association of independent insurance agents and brokers, representing a network of more than 300,000 agents, brokers and their employees nationally. Its members are businesses that offer customers a choice of policies from a variety of insurance companies. Independent agents and brokers offer all lines of insurance—property, casualty, life and health—as well as employee benefit plans and retirement products. Web address: www.independentagent.com.