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January 14, 2014

Is a Fax Worth $48 Million?

By Susan J. Campbell, TMCnet Contributing Editor

While a number of us believed that fax technology went the way of the bag phone, the reality is it’s still an important communication channel in a number of industries. It is one of the few methods for exchanging data that can be configured to be completely secure. For that reason, the introduction of the all-IP environment didn’t replace the fax; it simply led to the creation of the IP-fax.

By connecting this important device to the in-house network, users can carry out seamless communications and archive important data for years to come. Without a compliance strategy in place, however, a business can put itself at great risk where the fax is concerned. For one man in Minnesota, it turned into a $48 million lesson.

According to a Fox Business report, the small business owner was simply trying to keep in touch with his potential clients. Doug Walburg, owner of Mariposa Publishing, found out how tricky fax regulations can be when he was sued by attorney Michael Nack. According to Walburg, Nack agreed to receive faxes but sued Walburg when those faxes lacked opt-out clauses.

Image via Shutterstock

Walburg feels he is being treated unfairly, as Nack agreed to receive the faxes in the first place. Nack and his attorney disagree, stating that the FCC’s (News - Alert) position on the matter is very clear. Even if a business gives permission, opt-out notices must be included so they know how to stop receiving the faxes. Since the case has made its way all the up through the legal system and could wind up costing Walburg $48 million, the Supreme Court will have the final say.

The FCC’s position on fax communication is taken from the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, the same law that protects individuals from annoying telemarketing calls. The point is to enable individuals or businesses to opt out of unwanted solicitations. In the Walburg case, the outcome relies on the Court’s interpretation of the FCC rule on opt-out clauses and whether or not they pertain to faxes sent to individuals who have already agreed to receive them.

It’s possible that attorneys across the nation have been exploiting the FCC’s rule, an accusation that comes from Walburg’s attorney. It’s not difficult for a company or individual to request a fax and then turn around and sue if that fax lacks an opt-out clause.

Regardless, for those companies that still rely on the IP-fax for key communications, compliance with all FCC rules is essential. After all, if you can’t afford a multi-million class action lawsuit – think twice before you send a solicitation fax. 

Edited by Blaise McNamee

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