A Michigan attorney is warning local businesses to be alert to a scam that is increasing in frequency: “junk fax” telemarketing. Fenton attorney Steven Shelton says that many area businesses receive solicitations from companies promising to deliver customers by mass-faxing advertisements, but instead of customers, the businesses reap thousands of dollars in liability.
“It is a violation of federal law to send unsolicited advertisements via fax,” Shelton said. “What’s more, 47 U.S.C. 227—the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA—allows the recipients of such junk faxes to sue these businesses for hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars per fax. A business that sends out even as few as 1,500 faxes can end up with some serious legal problems.”
For example, Hooters of Augusta, Georgia was ordered to pay just under $12 million for TCPA violations in 2001. In that same year, the Dallas Cowboys football franchise lost a $1.7 million TCPA lawsuit. Fax.com, the one-time leader of fax broadcasters, went bankrupt after receiving numerous citations from the FCC and being faced with a $2.2 trillion (with a “T”) class action suit.
Shelton, who has pursued TCPA cases on his own and for clients, is warning local businesses to be suspicious of anyone who offers to advertise over the fax machine. Many of the companies offering these services will make false assurances that the practice is legal. “They’re simply lying,” he said. “They tell you that if there’s an ‘opt-out’ number on the faxes that they are legal, or that they will only send them to recipients who have specifically ‘opted in’ to receive such faxes, or that you won’t be liable as long as you don’t send the faxes yourself. None of these statements is true. What these guys do is take your money, break the law, and leave you holding the bag.” There has been a dramatic increase in such solicitations lately, he said, leading to more local businesses feeling the sting. Most seem to be coming from companies based in eastern Europe.
Meanwhile, Shelton says he will continue to pursue junk faxers. “People who send junk faxes—directly or by paying a broadcaster to do it for them—are stealing from innocent people,” he said. “It may only be a few cents in paper and toner per fax, but it adds up to a significant amount over time. Plus, it’s disruptive and a terrible nuisance. That’s why Congress enacted this law. That’s why my clients are angry. Frankly, that’s why I’m angry. And that’s why I’m raising the alarm: don’t engage in this practice, and don’t give money to people who do, or you’ll end up paying not only the broadcaster, but the recipients as well.”
Steven Shelton is an attorney in private practice in Fenton, Michigan. Initial consultations are always free. To schedule an appointment, contact attorney Steven Shelton on-line or by telephone at 810-750-1420.