Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced court actions against an international "fax blaster" company from London, England for sending thousands of unsolicited fax advertisements throughout the United States after being told to stop by consumers, businesses and government agencies.
"Oregon law allows companies to fax unsolicited advertisements until they are told to stop by the recipients," Myers said. "This company continued to barrage offices and homes with promotional faxes after being told to cease and desist by federal and state agencies. We had to put an end to their blatant disregard for our laws."
The Oregon Department of Justice Wednesday (September 26) filed a lawsuit against 21st Century Faxes of London, England and obtained a temporary restraining order directed at its "900 number" billing agent, ICN Ltd. of Delray Beach, Florida, from Marion County Circuit Judge Joseph Guimond.
The temporary restraining order prevents ICN, which is the defendant's "900 number" billing service, from releasing any money to 21st Century Faxes, or to Cooperative Bank Overseas Financial Services. However, ICN is allowed to collect money due them under contract with the defendant.
The defendant is required to appear at a 10 a.m. hearing Thursday (October 4, 2001) in Marion County Circuit Court. At that time, the courts will determine whether the restraining order will remain in effect while the lawsuit is pending.
The lawsuit alleges that 21st Century Faxes violated the Unlawful Trade Practices Act by ignoring written directions from consumers, businesses and government officials or representatives to cease sending unsolicited fax advertisements. The faxes ranged from promotions on how to "get paid to diet" or "get paid to go shopping" to faxes asking recipients for their opinion on controversial social and political issues.
Recipients fax their responses to a "900 number" and are billed at $2.95 per minute. The defendant claims it posts the results on its web site and mails them to various political figures.
"Individuals, government and businesses waste time, money and material dealing with 21st Century's unwanted faxes," Myers said. "The company doesn't even comply with its own procedures for removing numbers from its data base. People call the number provided but the faxes continue."
City of Pendleton officials assisted Department of Justice investigators with detailed reports concerning approximately 60 unsolicited faxes received by city offices from the defendant. After writing at least four times demanding that the company stop, they received 109 additional faxes. Other Oregon consumers and businesses received at least 52 faxes after giving written notice.
The defendants have had numerous exchanges with law enforcement and regulatory agencies. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has issued a "Notice of Apparent Liability for Forfeiture" for $1,107,500 for repeated violations of the federal faxing laws. The company claims the law does not apply to foreign companies.
The Maryland Attorney General obtained a cease and desist order against 21st Century Faxes but it could only be enforced by blocking the 900 numbers through AT&T. ICN, which was not named in the order, refused to comply with the Maryland's demand that it stop billing numbers in its state. The State of Washington has unsuccessfully sought an Assurance of Discontinuance of Unlawful Trade Practices.
"We must take away financial incentive by sanctioning the company economically," Myers said. "This illegal activity will be permanently stopped."
Anyone wanting information on this case or other consumer protection issues may call the Attorney General's consumer hotline at (503) 378-4320, (Salem area only), (503) 229-5576 (Portland area only) or toll-free at 1-877-877-9392. Justice is online at www.doj.state.or.us.
Jan Margosian, (503) 947-4333 (media line only) firstname.lastname@example.org