© 1995 NBC News

"Conventional telemarketers aren't the only ones you can say goodbye to using the TCPA. The law also covers high-tech telemarketers. So, if you get a pre-recorded solicitation, or if your fax machine is tied up with a sales pitch, each violation could be worth 500 bucks in small claims court."

Stone Phillips, Dateline NBC, November 15, 1995.

That's right...the junk (unsolicited) fax that you received is probably worth $500.00 or more in a court of law. Its simple--the proof is in your hand!

The basics:

The fax is only legal if you have an "established business relationship" with the firm sending the fax. An "established business relationship" is defined in the law as: "a prior or existing relationship formed by a voluntary two-way communication between a person or entity and a residential subscriber with or without an exchange of consideration, on the basis of an inquiry, application, purchase or transaction by the residential subscriber regarding products or services offered by such person or entity, which relationship has not been previously terminated by either party."
In simple English, if you don't do business with, or never heard of the advertiser, you probably don't have an "established business relationship."

You do not have to inform the party cease sending faxes. The first fax is illegal and actionable under the law.

The party ultimately responsible under the law is the party for which the solicitation is made. In other words, if Joe's tire company hires Megablast broadcast fax company to send an advertisement advertising a tire sale to you, both are responsible. But the law says that Joe's tire is ultimately responsible. Since most broadcast faxers are out of state, it is unlikely you could serve them with a subpoena, so concentrate on the advertiser himself, since he is local.

In the company tells you that it is legal because of "freedom of speech" or some other B. S. , give him a copy of the federal law, and ask him to review it. Then contact him in 2-3 weeks and ask him if he still believes he can legally send the fax. If he says "yes", then you should seek punitive damages. The logic? Simple! He has reviewed the law and still chooses to violate it!

Junk faxes are prohibited by law because they use the concept of "cost shifting". This means that advertisers use your toner and paper to promote their message at your expense. It is "advertising by theft", and therefore outlawed by federal law.

The damages provided under the law is $500.00 plus court costs (California). A judge may award triple damages ($1500.00) if he believes that the violation was intentional.

Want more info? Check out these sites:

The FCC has a page on junk faxes at: http://www.fcc.gov/cgb/consumerfacts/unwantedfaxes.html.

Consumer activist Robert Braver has an excellent page at: http://www.junkfaxes.org. Highly recommended, a great resource on junk faxes.