US regulators have dished out a record $5.4 million (€4.2m; £3.0m) fine for unsolicited fax marketing.
On the receiving end is Fax.com, which claims to offer advertisers "the world's largest fax number database" with 16m entries. According to the company's website, clients can "send a high volume of fax information to hundreds, thousands, or even millions of recipients."
The Federal Communications Commission ruled that the company had broken fax marketing regulations on 489 separate occasions. Each violation incurred a penalty of $11,000, making the final fine the biggest ever for unsolicited commercial faxing.
"Consumers hate to go to their fax machine only to find their resources have been wasted on spam and junk," declared FCC chairman Michael Powell. "We're sending relief in the form of a simple message to junk faxers: violate our rules and you will pay the consequences."
Under current law (enforced since 1992), marketers need written permission from the recipient before they can fax an ad. The only exception is when there is an existing business relationship between the two; the FCC plans to abolish this loophole, but will not do so until 2005 [WAMN: 20-Aug-03].
The Commission -- whose previous attempts to fine Fax.com were blocked by the courts [WAMN: 01-Oct-02] -- has instructed the marketing firm to assess within 30 days whether it is complying with the rules. "Fax.com's primary business activity itself constitutes a massive ongoing violation," the regulator warned.
The company and its clients may face further fines depending on future conduct and consumer complaints.
Data sourced from: USA Today; additional content by WARC staff