FCC Levies $5.4 Million Fine For Unwanted Faxes

Federal regulators have fined a California company a record-breaking $5.4 million for faxing unsolicited advertisements to consumers.

The fine, levied against Fax.com, Inc. by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), is the largest ever for violating do-not-fax rules passed by Congress in 1991, the Washington Post reported.

The FCC announced its decision Monday, saying Fax.com had 489 separate violations, each carrying the maximum $11,000 fine. The company, which claims to have the industry’s largest fax number database, sends faxes on behalf of clients that range from travel companies to sellers of penny stocks to ink-jet printer cartridge companies.

"Consumers hate to go to their fax machine only to find their resources have been wasted on spam and junk," FCC Chairman Michael Powell said. "We're sending relief in the form of a simple message to junk faxers: Violate our rules and you will pay the consequences."

Fax.com recently lost a $2.2 million decision to the Washington-based law firm Covington & Burling, which claimed it had received more than 1,500 faxes in three hours.

Fax.com has argued that the FCC's rules barring transmission of unsolicited faxes are a violation of the First Amendment right to free speech, but a federal court last year rejected that argument, paving the way for the FCC to finalize its fine against the company.

The FCC also ordered Fax.com to report within 30 days on whether it is in compliance with junk-fax rules and federal laws.

The FCC's action is the last in a series of efforts to stop commercial intrusions into the workplace and home. Last year, Congress passed legislation to curb unwanted e-mail, and the Bush administration put a do-not-call list in place to prevent unwanted telemarketing calls. The junk-fax legislation was prompted by outraged consumers who were fed up with tied-up fax telephone lines and wasted paper and ink.

Powell suggested Monday that he plans to act against other violators of the agencies’ rules against unwanted faxes and phone calls. "We will not rest until consumers find peace from unwanted and unlawful intrusions—whether from telemarketing calls or junk faxes."

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