An effort is under way on Capitol Hill to roll back new Do Not Fax regulations that are set to take effect in January. The regulations stem from a provision in the 1991 law that established the original Do Not Call list to crack down on telemarketing. The new rules, written by the Federal Communications Commission late this year, require businesses to obtain written approval from fax recipients prior to hitting the Send button on a mass solicitation.

Fearing that the new Do Not Fax rules will hurt small businesses more than they will rein in overzealous faxers, business groups are fighting back. At their urging, the House passed the Junk Fax Prevention Act, which (despite its red-herring name) lessens restrictions on commercial faxing. If the bill becomes law, businesses will be free to fax any customer with whom they've done business in the last seven years.

That would certainly help Robert Smith, who owns a small public relations firm in Rockton, Ill. His business faxes daily newsletters and sales fliers to clients such as retail shops and plastic surgeons at a cost of four or five cents apiece. The FCC's rules will hurt his business, he says, because he can't afford to mail out permission slips to every potential client -- and switching to a different form of direct marketing will cost him up to $5,000 a year. "The government is making it harder and harder to make money," he complains.