Junk Fax Problem

It’s a new day. You arrive at the office. There to great you are 20 pages of advertisements sitting on your fax machine. Toner cartridges, computer systems, trips to Florida. That’s another couple of dollars for paper, toner, electricity, wear and tear on your fax machine. When they arrive during the business day, unsolicited faxes can also tie up your fax machine.

The following are some suggestions on what you can do to fight back.

  • Tell the senders to remove your number from their fax distribution list. While this may not always work with all senders, it should reduce faxes from conference organizers and CLE providers.
  • If you receive an untargeted fax that looked like it was sent by a mass fax service provider on behalf of someone else, don’t just focus your efforts on the company who physically transmitted the fax. Go after the company whose products are being advertised. Call them or fax them back.
  • Stop providing your fax number to everyone who requests it (and train others in your office to do the same). If there is a legitimate need to provide it (for example, a conference organizer may want to fax a confirmation), tell the organization it is being provided to that it may only be used to provide the service you requested and may not be used to market other services or programs, and may not be sold or shared with third parties.
  • Send a privacy information request pursuant to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act. If someone is sending you a fax then they likely have some information about you or other members of your firm. It would seem reasonable to want to know what information they have, how they use it and under what circumstances they disclose it to others.
  • Consider whether you really need to have your fax number listed in legal and other directories. While directories are copyrighted as compilations, there probably are businesses out there who copy the information and load it into marketing databases. Depending on your practice, more and more information may be coming to you in electronic form. And your clients or the other lawyers you do business with can always get your fax number off your business card, email signature line or from your website.
  • Having a slow day? Consider conducting some research regarding a possible basis for an action based on nuisance or trespass. Although nuisance was originally treated as a right to freedom from undue interference in the use and enjoyment of land, there may be at least some basis to extend its use to include freedom from interference with non-property right. If successful, this could make for a great class action case.
  • Consider developing a web-based “hall of shame” to list as much information as you have available about the senders of junk faxes you receive. This page does not require a prominent link from your website. Even an obscure link will be sufficient to have it indexed by search engines. Internet users who search on the name of the fax sender or its advertised products can then be better informed about how the company does business.
  • Complain to the CRTC and your local telephone company. To save time, prepare a fax cover sheet that can be re-used and then re-fax all unsolicited faxes you receive to the local CRTC offices and those of your telephone company. The purpose would be either to complain about the lack of regulation or to advise the CRTC and your local telephone company if any faxes do not comply with current CRTC requirements. Maybe this will help nudge our Canadian regulators to enact regulations to limit the sending of unsolicited faxes. (Telecom Decision CRTC 2004-35 sets out certain requirements that need to be met by senders of fax telemarketing communications. However, these do not prohibit the sending of unsolicited faxes and not all senders are complying with all of the requirements)
  • Note: The above appeared as a Bits & Bytes article published by Law Times on April 11, 2005.