FCC Slams Fax.com for $5.4M

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The Federal Communications Commission yesterday slapped oft-targeted fax broadcaster Fax.com with a $5.4 million fine, the largest telemarketing fine ever imposed by the agency, on complaints of junk-fax rule violations.

Fax.com violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, which bans all unsolicited commercial faxes, on 489 occasions and is subject to fines of $11,000 for each violation, the FCC said. The FCC first proposed the fine in August 2002, after which Fax.com had argued that the ban on unsolicited faxes is unconstitutional and that the fine amount was excessive.

The company did not respond to an e-mail addressed to a press contact listed on the Fax.com Web site yesterday. A phone number for the company was not working yesterday. Fax.com could contest the fine in court.

The FCC is far from alone in seeking redress from Fax.com. California and Idaho are suing the firm for the sending of unsolicited faxes, and many private entities have sued Fax.com as well.

Most prominently, Steve Kirsch, co-founder of the Infoseek Internet search engine and current CEO of Propel Software, seeks $2.2 trillion from Fax.com in conjunction with activist policy group Redefining Progress. Kirsch said yesterday that his lawsuit, filed in August 2002, remains pending.

Despite the multitude of lawsuits, Fax.com continues to send millions of faxes daily, Kirsch said. The FCC has issued fines against fax broadcasters in the past, he said.

"I'm waiting for them to collect," Kirsch said.

Fax.com is also fighting a lawsuit filed by Missouri and in 2002 a federal district court judge declared the FCC's blanket ban on unsolicited faxes to be illegal. But in March the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the district judge and reinstated the ban.


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