Junk fax company sued for trillions
By Brian Bergstein
SAN JOSE, Calif. -- Fed up with unwanted ads for phone accessories, credit services and stock tips on his fax machine, a Silicon Valley executive has sued a company that sends bulk faxes, demanding $2.2 trillion in damages.
While the amount may seem wildly inflated, technology entrepreneur Steve Kirsch believes that's the sum consumers should get if the penalty is assessed for each and every fax, and the damages are tripled as federal law allows. The lawsuits seek class-action status.
Kirsch said a torrent of ads he received last fall had with no phone number he could call to get his fax number removed.
"This has been going on for years," said Kirsch, founder and chief executive of Propel Software Corp. in San Jose, "but lately it's become more of a science, and both spam e-mails and spam faxes have begun to be more of a problem."
Kirsch filed the lawsuits in Santa Clara County Superior Court and U.S. District Court in San Francisco.
Both target Fax.com, an Aliso Viejo-based company that sends bulk fax advertisements, and as many as 10,000 advertisers. The state lawsuit also names Cox Business Services, a subsidiary of Atlanta-based Cox Communications Inc., because Fax.com uses network equipment it bought from Cox.
Fax.com's CEO, Kevin Katz, characterized the allegations as "unfounded and absurd."
He said anyone who does not want to receive advertisements need only call a toll-free number included on every fax, in accordance with California law.
The lawsuit, Katz said, is being used to intimidate Fax.com's customers.
"Many of our clients do not have access to traditional forms of advertising, which can be very expensive," he said.
Cox spokesman Bobby Amirshahi declined to comment.
Kirsch's lawsuits are by no means the first attacks on bulk-fax advertisers.
In 1991, Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which lets junk fax recipients sue their senders for up to $1,500 per fax. To qualify as illegal, a fax must be unsolicited and advertise some product or service for sale.
Earlier this month, the Federal Communications Commission proposed a $5.38 million fine against Fax.com, the largest ever by the commission for violations of the act.
Kirsch's site: www.junkfax.org