July 1, 2005--Congress passed the Junk Fax Prevention Act this week, exempting businesses from previous Federal Communications Commission regulations barring unsolicited fax messages. The amendment would allow businesses, under specific guidelines, to send unsolicited faxes to customers, with whom they already have an established relationship.

Other stipulations of the bill include "a clear and conspicuous notice on the first page" explaining how the customer can remove themselves from that distribution list. The removal process must be accessible "at any time, on any day of the week." The Act also requires that the removal option be cost-free, but acknowledges that some classes of small businesses may be exempt, if "the [Federal Communications] Commission determines that the cost to such class are unduly burdensome given the revenues generated by such small businesses."

Previously under FCC rules, businesses had the freedom to fax their customers only with expressed, written consent from the customer. For many small businesses, these guidelines made fax transactions costly and time-consuming.

While some have worried the bill could unleash a dramatic increase of unsolicited faxes, other organizations such as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Federation of Independent Business considered the bill a victory for their small business members. The bill heads to the White House next week.