- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 22, 2003

California’s attorney general sued a fax-based marketing company yesterday, saying it illegally barraged consumers with millions of unsolicited faxes and prerecorded phone messages.

The $15 million lawsuit against Fax.com of Aliso Viejo, Calif., is the first such action in California since the state repealed its “junk fax” law in January, allowing the stronger federal law to take effect in the state.

In a complaint filed in federal court in San Diego, Attorney General Bill Lockyer says Fax.com has repeatedly violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which bars companies from sending unsolicited advertisements by fax or sending prerecorded phone messages without prior consent from the recipient.

The state is seeking $500 for each violation of the act and has requested that the court award $1,500 for each time Fax.com knowingly and willfully broke the law.

Fax.com says it has the largest fax database, with nearly 16 million numbers. It charges companies a fee to send faxes on their behalf and has the capacity to send 3 million faxes per day. The private company also has agreements with law-enforcement agencies to send faxes with pictures of missing children and criminals.

“Fax.com, with high-level technology and low-level respect for the law, runs a 24-hour privacy-invasion operation that continually spews unsolicited faxes and prerecorded phone calls,” Mr. Lockyer said in a statement.

Mr. Lockyer’s complaint also says Fax.com violated state law by using false or misleading advertising and not honoring consumers’ requests to be removed from distribution lists.

Fax.com President Kevin Katz and chief technical officer Eric Wilson were also named in the complaint. The company did not return calls seeking comment.

Supporters of the lawsuits say it costs some consumers as much as $60,000 in labor, toner and paper to receive faxes from Fax.com. Other states and some private citizens have previously filed complaints against the company.

On July 11 the Kentucky attorney general filed a similar suit against Fax.com and JJJ Marketing Inc. of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., arguing that the two companies made phone solicitations to people on the state’s “no call” registry.

Also earlier this month, Boston lawyer William P. Corbett Jr. sued Fax.com for sending 11 faxes between April and June, even though Mr. Corbett was on Massachusetts’ “no call” registry.

In August, a coalition of California privacy activists filed a $2.2 trillion set of lawsuits against Fax.com, accusing the company of violating federal junk-fax laws. At the time, Fax.com referred to those lawsuits as “unfounded and absurd” and said it had a constitutional right to advertise via fax. The company also said the lawsuits hindered its ability to send out mass missing-children alerts by fax.

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