If you have a product you want to promote, think very carefully before you send an unsolicited fax to Bais Yaakov of Spring Valley.
The Orthodox Jewish high school for girls in Rockland County just might find your advertisement so annoying that it will sue you.
That’s what the school did on May 26, filing three class action lawsuits in federal court, White Plains, demanding from $5 million to $15 million from each defendant.
And that was not the first time the school has sued companies that swamped its fax machine with unwanted advertisements. It has filed 16 complaints in the past five years, in Alabama, Florida, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Nebraska, New Jersey and New York .
The school’s White Plains attorney, Aytan Bellin, has filed as many as 95 consumer protection lawsuits, according to court records.
“Sorry, I can’t talk to you,” school Principal David Sussman said when called, and then hung up.
Bellin did not respond to a message asking to discuss the cases.
Their authority to sue is courtesy of the 1991 Telephone Consumer Protection Act and the 2005 Junk Fax Prevention Act.
The legislation bans the use of a facsimile machine, computer or other device to send unsolicited advertisements to a telephone fax machine. The law exempts senders who have an established business relationship with the recipients. Even then, the fax must provide contact information for opting out of future messages.
Congress found the fusillade of faxes so onerous that it gave recipients the right to sue and to obtain $500 for each violation of the law.
The state General Business Law also restricts unsolicited faxes.
Last month, Bais Yaakov sued Textbook Warehouse of Alpharetta, Georgia, for sending 33 unwanted faxes from June 2013 to September 2014 that offered textbooks, workbooks and paperbacks for sale.
The faxes included a phone number for removing the school from future faxes, but did not comply with the letter of the law on opting out, the complaint claims.
Bais Yaakov also sued School Safety Czar, a Las Vegas company that sent 21 faxes for communications gear, such as 2-way radios, and Maximus Inc., a Weston, Virginia company that transmitted nine faxes promoting job recruitment services.
The harm, Bais Yaakov says, is the waste of paper, toner, fax machine, telephone line and staff time for handling the annoyances.
The lawsuits were filed as class actions, on the belief that a whole lot of other consumers have been spammed.
The school is not alone in feeling that uninvited faxes are a nuisance.
Telephone Consumer Protection Act lawsuits have increased from 14 in 2007 to 4,860 last year, according to Web Recon.
Organizations like JunkFax.org advise consumers how to “get even” and JunkFaxDefense.com helps businesses defend themselves from the lawsuits.
Bais Yaakov has had some success in penalizing pesty promoters.
In 2015, for instance, a U.S. magistrate judge in Trenton, New Jersey approved a $2.6 million class action settlement against Peterson’s Nelnet.
The judge awarded the school $500 in damages for faxes it had received selling college test prep guides and $5,000 as an incentive award for being bringing the case.
Bellin & Associates LLC, as class counsel, was awarded $866,790.