Fax machines are a great tool for both business and personal use. However, it is common for fax users to receive unsolicited faxes, using up paper and blocking the fax line from legitimate faxers. Since faxing is a communication, the FTC has some regulatory authority over fax use.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act bans unsolicited faxed advertisements. Anyone who faxes an unsolicited ad to another individual or business (if there is no prior business relationship) can be penalized for $500 for each fax. The FTC recommends saving unsolicited faxes from persistent companies, taking the company to small claims court and obtaining a judgment for each violation.

TIP: If a company willfully violates the law, it may result in a penalty of up to $1,500.

Faxes typically include some sort of privacy or confidentiality notice stating that the fax is intended only for the person to whom it is addressed. Although the statement may prohibit the distribution of fax to other persons, there is no assurance that the fax will not be seen. However, it is a good idea to include a privacy statement, since it may make the recipient hesitate before revealing the contents of the fax to others.