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A California businessman has launched a class action lawsuit against fax outfit Fax.com claiming truly gobs smacking damages of $2.2 trillion.

In suits filed yesterday, Steve Kirsch is seeking $500 damages for each unsolicited fax Fax.com has sent out over the last four years. He's relying on US federal laws passed in 1991, which banned sending out unsolicited commercial faxes. This law was upheld in 1995 by the US Court of Appeals in San Francisco which ruled that the law protected consumers and did not restrict rights to free expression.

If judges decide that the suit merits national class action status, then Fax.com faces paying for each of the 3 million faxes it sends each day. That comes to a cool £2.2 trillion, even without invoking a section of the law that allows penalties to be tripled for flagrant breaches of the law. Of course, the chances of such colossal fines been imposed are zero, but Kirsch's action does highlight consumer dissatisfaction over junk faxes and might (possibly) act as a determent.

Kirsch began his legal action after receiving more than 100 unwanted faxes at his San Jose home over the last few months, and many more at his business, which originated from Fax.com computers, the San Francisco Chronicle reports.

Fax.com is yet to respond to the lawsuit but in the past it has argued that junk faxes are legal, at least in California, providing recipients are given a chance to take their number off lists (through toll free numbers included on unsolicited faxes). Attempts to overturn this California law failed in June when members of the State assembly committee abstained from voting, after lobbying led by Fax.com. Opponents of junk faxing have vowed to try again to get California laws changed later this month.

Kirsch's suit comes two weeks after the Fax.com was fined nearly $5.4 million by federal regulators, for violation of the 1991 federal law after ignoring repeated warnings about its behaviour, the Chronicle reports. ®

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