Allied Telesyn done!

2006-12-01 19:22

So, way back when, I mentioned my junk fax suit against Allied Telesyn. The eventual settlement, signed in August 2005, was confidential until the settlement checks were mailed. They’ve been mailed.

The short answer is, Allied Telesyn sent junk faxes to about 6,000 businesses. Early on, they were claiming they had called all of these businesses to gain permission, and so on. However, my business is just me at my house; there’s no one who could have given them permission, so we know that statement was false. Later, it came out that for many people all they knew was a fax number. Through a lot of reverse lookups and such they came up with a reasonably large list of people to contact with claim notices.

The final settlement was for $250 per claim. BTW, to clarify: That $250 is a check for $250.00. Not a “coupon” good on future services which the company can use as cheap advertising. The settlement order mentions just short of $160,000 for the class members who filed claims, and a $16.5k distribution to a law fund. As class representative, I got $5k. The law firms that represented me split up $300k, and of course, Allied Telesyn presumably paid their own attorneys for representation over the several years this case ran.

That’s a lot for a single fax, although it’s not the most I’ve ever gotten per fax in a settlement. On the other hand, it’s by far the most it’s ever cost someone to fax me.

Cue the whiners saying one should unsubscribe. Unsubscribe from what? Allied Telesyn had their own list; not a list anyone else used. I only got one fax from them. Nothing to unsubscribe from, but with millions of businesses in the US, I couldn’t afford to get one fax per business in any event.

This is, I think, about how the TCPA is intended to work; it is very expensive to send unsolicited faxes, because Congress outlawed them. This is not a law intended to “discourage” an action; it is an outright prohibition, and the penalties are, if anything, demonstrably too small — it is very hard to get enough money on junk fax suits to justify the cost of participating. One reason I was willing to accept the fairly low $250/class member settlement (by law, they would be entitled to at least $500 in individual suits) is the huge hassle of having to bring your own case. $250 you actually get for filling out a single claim form is better than $500 you can’t afford to spend $1,000 to go get.

The settlement took way longer than anticipated, largely because of a series of humorous mishaps. Response to the initial round of claim forms was tiny. The second claim form went out with a typo, claiming people had only 30 days to file (they actually had 60). So a third went out, and then Stuff Happened. Law stuff, court stuff, whatever it was.

But the claim checks have been mailed, so the agreement saying I can’t publicize the settlement or talk about it is now over. I did get one gripe about my previous entry, from March of 2005. Apparently, the mere fact that the article in question was written five full months before the settlement agreement was signed was a little too subtle for the folks over at Telesyn to pick up. They didn’t make a big deal out of it, but they probably would have done better just to not mention it at all.

So, there you have it. Yes, you can sue people under the TCPA. Given that this took three years to resolve (I started it in May of 2003 or so), I don’t think most people could “make a living at it” or whatever.

And no, I don’t feel that it’s unfair to businesses. I think that it provides businesses with a crucial defense against the effective loss of their fax machines.

Peter Seebach