Floppy disks and cassette tapes aren't the only pieces of technology that are viewed as obsolete. Fax machines are right there with them. They take up space in office buildings everywhere, even though most communications are now sent digitally.
However, there are some out there who've figured out a way to cash in on the old fax machine. And it all boils down to an old law.
Back in 1991, the Telephone Consumer Act was enacted by Congress, allowing the recipients of unwanted fax advertisements to recover around $500 per message.
You'd think with the decline of the fax machine itself, the law would have also been forgotten. But that's not the case. Since 2009, lawsuits and claims have actually risen, with plaintiffs complaining of unsolicited faxes promoting products for pets, mortgages, medications and more.
In 2009, a total of 44 suits were filed. However, in 2012, that number skyrocketed to 1,136. And, as of last year, there were 4,860 litigants. Beyond that, the Federal Communications Commission has received more than 10,000 complaints about spam fax messages since 2014.
What gives? Is this once well-intentioned law being abused by the plaintiffs? Some say that the lawsuits are as frivolous as the 15-year-old who sued his mother for taking away his cellphone.
Those filing the claims would obviously say no. One business owner named Scott Gustafson has made a few hundred dollars off of such claims and states it has reduced the amount of spam faxes his company receives. "I have to pay to receive your advertisement," Gustafson explained. "It's super annoying."
And this is just one example. Other cases have settled for thousands of dollars. The cases also rarely go to court, since settlements are more common.
Earlier this year, Cynosure Inc. settled a suit for $16 million for spam advertisements sent for its seminars. And that's not even the highest settlement out there. In 2014, MetLife Inc. settled a case for $23 million due to the unwise sales tactics used by one of its employees.
If you've been targeted with spam faxes, it might be worth it to contact a lawyer and see if the grievance qualifies for a suit. You never know, it may just work out in your favor.