Attorney General Hardy Myers today announced that 21st Century Fax Ltd. of London, England and its director Gordon Ritchie are permanently out of the commercial fax business in Oregon as part of a stipulated judgment filed in Marion County Circuit Court.
Today's action settles a lawsuit filed October 1 against the defendant by the Department of Justice alleging that the company sent thousands of unsolicited fax advertisements throughout the United States after being told to stop by consumers, businesses and government agencies. 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 faxed their responses to a "900 number" and were billed at $2.95 per minute.
On that same date, Justice obtained a temporary restraining order directed at the defendant's "900 number" billing agent, ICN Ltd. of Delray Beach, Florida. The restraining order, which has remained in effect while the lawsuit was pending, has prevented ICN from releasing any money to 21st Century Fax Ltd. However, ICN was allowed to collect money due them under contract with the defendant.
"The company's blatant disregard for Oregon's consumer protection laws has ended," Myers said. "We're pleased that sanctioning the company economically worked and that the company is permanently stopped from committing unlawful activity in our state."
The judgment, which applies to the defendant as a corporation and its director Ritchie as an individual, permanently stops them from doing any business in Oregon involving advertising faxes and from transmitting faxes into Oregon. Neither can accept payments as a result of consumers responding to unsolicited faxes transmitted to Oregon after October 17, 2001.
Ritchie is connected to a non-profit, religious organization in England, "The Lord's Witnesses," that offers free copies of the "True Bible Code." Ritchie is allowed, under the judgment, to fax information whose sole purpose is religious and not commercial.
The judgment requires the defendant to pay $11,601 to the Justice Consumer Protection and Education Fund to cover prosecution costs. Five hundred dollars of this payment will go to the City of Pendleton.
Pendleton officials assisted Justice investigators with detailed reports concerning more than 169 unsolicited faxes received by city offices from 21st Century Fax Ltd. City employees' written demands to stop the faxes were ignored by the defendant. Numerous exchanges with other state law enforcement and federal regulatory agencies failed to halt the activity.
Consumers and businesses wanting more information concerning Oregon's fax law 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