Fax is an integral part of the healthcare, financial and other industries, which is why there is a strict set of laws that govern the form of communication. It’s also why it is essential for businesses to ensure that their fax server hardware and software is up to date, well maintained and fully supported at all times.
If something goes awry while faxing, or if businesses don’t follow the proper protocols, they can be subject to fines and other legal consequences. When it comes to faxing, here are some of the worst mistakes that can result in financial and legal ramifications:
Healthcare companies are well aware of HIPAA laws and how to avoid violations, but no matter how careful they are with their patient/insurance records, if a member of the team is careless while faxing, the company can still be subject to a hefty fine and/or a lawsuit.
HIPAA fines can range anywhere from $100-$50,000 per incident. If there was criminal intent in the violation, fines up to $250,000 can be levied. Criminal violations can also carry up to 10-year jail sentences.
Late or Unsent Faxes
The Sarbanes-Oxley Act of 2002 (SOX) requires all publicly traded companies maintain faxes and other correspondence that are sent between themselves and their public auditors. Records for the past five years must be maintained at all times, and CEOs/CFOs must sign certifications that the information is true and well documented.
Violating SOX can result in fines of up to $5 million and imprisonment for up to 20 years. They can also result in being removed from public stock exchange listings and invalidation of D&O insurance policies.
How to Avoid These Consequences
Some things healthcare and financial companies should look out for when faxing:
- Make sure fax hardware and software are up to date to prevent security breaches and loss of documents.
- Beware of BYOD (bring your own device) policies. Employees can unintentionally download and store private documents on their unsecure devices.
- To avoid unintentional violations, make sure associates are properly trained in the use of fax technology.
Lastly, always use cover sheets when sending faxes to other organizations. These should contain:
- Notice that this fax contains confidential information
- The date and time of the fax
- The sender’s name and contact information
- The intended recipient’s name and contact information
- The number of pages that were transmitted
- Information on how recipients can respond and verify that they have received the fax
Don’t Send Unsolicited Faxes
We’ll end with a fine that is fairly simple for most companies to avoid. If you are in the business of sending advertisements or unwarranted solicitations through fax channels: don’t.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has fined companies up to $5.4 million for sending unsolicited faxes that violated federal law. Each unsolicited fax carries up to a $16,000 penalty according to The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA).
If you do engage in lawful advertising via fax, make sure to strictly abide by all the rules and always ensure that the numbers you are sending ads to belong to people that have not expressed they do not want to receive them. Accidents happen, but they also carry heavy liabilities.
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