NJ Lawmakers Target Unsolicited Text Message Ads

txt msg solicitationLegislation that would prohibit unsolicited text message ads from being sent to New Jersey residents will go before the Assembly this week. The measure would bar sending such ads if they cause recipients to pay fees or reduce the number of text messages allotted by the person’s telecommunications provider. Companies could only send ads to customers who give their approval, which they could revoke at any time.

Businesses also would be barred from selling or offering to sell text messaging services to residents unless they offer the option to block all incoming and outgoing text messages.

Violators would face fines under the state’s Consumer Fraud Act.

If the Assembly approves the measure Monday, it would head to the Senate for consideration.

The bill also calls for a maximum fine of $10,000 for a first offense. Subsequent violations would be punishable by a maximum fine of $20,000. One unsolicited text message sent during a 12-month period would not amount to a violation, however.

Noting that unsolicited text message ads can be a costly nuisance for consumers, proponents say the practice needs to be stopped immediately. The measure (A-633) defines unsolicited ads as any message sent without the recipient’s permission that encourages the purchase or rental of, or the investment in, merchandise or services.

“Unwanted text messages not only tax consumers’ patience, but they are a drain on cell minutes and bank accounts,” said Paul Moriarty, D-Turnersville, one of the bill’s primary sponsors. “Just as telephone customers have been able to close their homes to unwanted telemarketing calls, cell customers should be able to be free of unwanted text ads.”

Other primary sponsors in the Assembly are Jon Bramnick, R-Westfield, and Ruben J. Ramos Jr., D-Hoboken.

Sen. Jeff Van Drew, D-Cape May Court House, will sponsor identical legislation in the Senate. AP

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