As the unsolicited commercial electronic mail act of 2001 (H.R. 95) works its way through the federal legislative process, many of us wonder if it will have any perceptible effect on the slew of unsolicited garbage that flows into our e-mail accounts each day. Maybe the best way to judge the effectiveness of this bill is to look to the past, namely, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.
Part of this legislation covered something similar to spam: junk faxes. From what Ive witnessed as of late, the TCPA hasnt worked at all. Companies such as Fax.com brag that their Web sites have the ability to send out millions of faxes per day, and I believe them because my organization was receiving up to 1,000 per week from them. Broadcast fax companies appear to snub their noses at the TCPA and continue to proliferate.
The TCPA is very specific about junk fax violations: It prohibits the transmission of unsolicited advertisements to fax machines. No person may transmit an advertisement describing the commercial availability or quality of any property, goods or services to a fax machine without prior express permission, invitation or the existence of an established business relationship, which is created with a person or entity when you make an inquiry, application, purchase or transaction regarding products or services offered by such person or entity.
We have 320 DID (direct inward dialing) fax numbers assigned to our organization and recently had to add two more inbound trunks to keep up with the number of unsolicited faxes Fax.com was pumping out. During one week, Fax.com took up all four of the inbound lines that feed our 320 RightFax server numbers for 1.5 hours, virtually shutting down our fax system for that time.
Fax.com appears to be a business that strives for corporate respectability, yet its actions seem to me seedy at best. I searched its Web site for a full hour and was unable to find the address of a home office, finally resorting to looking up its domain name and finding it was a California company. Similarly, when you call the 1-800 opt-out number that Fax.com provides at the bottom of its junk faxes, it doesnt identify itself. I dont have a clue how Fax.com got my DID numbers, but it did agree to remove them from its database. Maybe thats the only reason to have these types of laws. Otherwise, the company could have told me to take a hike.
Its been 10 years since the TCPA was passed, and it has had little to no effect on the influx of junk faxes. Why would any of us believe that the anti-spam bill will perform any better?