On more than just local government

Thursday, July 14, 2005

Killing the jobs of toner salespeople

Have you noticed a decline in the number of junk faxes you’ve received over the past few years? Despite the occasional one that comes through, compared to a few years ago, the reduction has been significant.

Now, the California Chamber of Commerce, along with most of the local chambers, is demanding a return to the bad old days. According to them, a bill in the state legislature, SB833 (Bowen), is too restrictive on their abilities to communicate with their members and, therefore, should be defeated. What they don’t tell you is that this bill is merely designed to keep in place the restrictions on unsolicited fax advertising that have been working for two years. So, what’s wrong with the protections we already have?

The history of this legislation is important to understand. Prior to 2003, California had a weaker junk fax law than did the Feds. To remedy this situation, a law was passed in Sacramento mirroring the stronger Federal statute. In a matter of days, the number of those invasions of our privacy diminished.

Now, Washington is planning on weakening the Federal law. Part of this weakening is to require that rather than your having to agree to receive faxes, known as “opting in,” you would be responsible for asking that you aren’t sent unsolicited material, known as “opting out.” SB833 would keep the existing limitation in place in California, with its “opting in” requirement, no matter what happens on the Federal level.

The main problem with the proposed Federal law (S 714 by Sen. Smith, R- Oregon) is that they want to make it so that any organization can fax anyone with whom they have even the most tenuous of a “business relationship.” This means that anyone to whom you have passed a business card, for example, can place you on their fax list and you, then, have to request removal from it. In reality, since there is no enforceable requirement in this law that the “business relationship” be proven, bulk fax companies like Fax.com can send you an unsolicited missive and, if you don’t respond to cancel, your fax number is now fair game for their use.

This is what the Chambers want to have happen. Why? Sadly, one main reason for the hue and cry from them is, to put it simply, laziness. They do not wish to be bothered to have to ask their members to agree to receive faxes, such as newsletters, from them. When you consider that your privacy will be lost because they don’t want to just ask their members for permission to fax them, you start to wonder whether these organizations have forgotten that they are consumers, too.

The California Chamber calls any bill that regulates business practices as “job killers.” Our local chambers, with the notable exception of Carson, walk mindlessly in lockstep, not seeming to understand that their members would perhaps like to have their own fax machines freed up from unsolicited use.

So, Chambers, whose job is going to be killed by this? All we can think of is the person who sells toner to the many individuals who will inconvenienced by your policies.

I’m not worried about them. I just want to keep my fax machine to myself.