TRENTON – The Senate Commerce Committee approved a pair of bills sponsored by Senator Joseph Coniglio today that would crack down on unwanted commercial electronic messages, or “spam.”
The Senator’s first bill, S-1129, known as the “New Jersey Can Spam Act”, bill would establish both criminal and civil penalties for those activities often involved in the widespread distribution of spam e-mail messages. The bill is an expansion of the federal CAN SPAM Act of 2003.
“With more and more people relying on e-mail and text messages to communicate with one another, spam is becoming an increasingly large problem.,” said Senator Coniglio, D-Bergen. “Spammers are becoming more creative in how they work to get around spam filters and blockers, often committing fraud or theft to get their messages through. Their behavior goes beyond annoying – it threatens the efficiency and security of the Internet.”
Among those acts to be prohibited under the bill are using a computer located in New Jersey to relay or retransmit multiple commercial spam messages with the intent to mislead recipients or service providers as to the origin of the messages, registering for multiple e-mail addresses or domain names with false information to transmit spam, or accessing another computer without authorization and using it to transmit multiple spam emails.
“We need to make the penalties for sending unwanted spam serious enough that the risk is not worth the financial reward to those who run these schemes,” added Senator Coniglio. “With this bill we’re moving beyond a slap on the wrist to considerable fines and time in prison.”
All violations of the bill would be at least a fourth degree fine with a maximum penalty of a year in prison and a $1000 fine per violation. For those spammers committing larger numbers of violations, they would be charged with a third degree crime with a sentence of up to five years in prison and a fine of up to $10,000. If violations involve a felony or a repeat offense, then the charge would be a crime of the second degree with a penalty to up to 10 years in prison and up to $25,000 in fines.
The bill would also authorize the Attorney General, or internet service provider to commence a civil action against a violator within two years of the violation. In an action brought by the Attorney General, the bill would authorize the court to award appropriate relief, including injunctive relief and a civil penalty of not more than $25,000 per day, or between $2 to $8 per commercial electronic mail message initiated in violation of the bill.
Also approved by the Committee was bill S-1130, which would prohibit the sending of unsolicited advertisements by text messaging more than once in a 12 month period to a resident of New Jersey if it would cause the recipient to incur a charge or deduct from the recipients’ allotted text messages.
“Besides being a nuisance, spam has begun to cost individuals money when their cell phone company charges them for receiving a text message. People need better safeguards to protect them from such unwelcome actions,” explained Senator Coniglio.
Both bills were approved unanimously and now go to the full Senate for their approval.