TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Joseph F. Vitale to prohibit the sending of unsolicited text message advertisements to New Jersey residents was unanimously approved by the Senate Economic Growth Committee today.
“Unsolicited text messages from advertisers not only serve as a nuisance to the general public, but also increase the cost of mobile phone services,” said Senator Vitale, D-Middlesex. “Inconvenienced telecommunications customers shouldn’t have to pay more on their cell phone bill for having been inconvenienced by an unsolicited advertisement. Rather, we ought to end the practice of unsolicited text message advertisements altogether, and let New Jersey residents decide for themselves how and with whom they would like to communicate via mobile message.”
The bill, S-1501, would prohibit the sending of an unsolicited advertisement by text messaging to a resident of New Jersey if the unsolicited text causes the recipient to incur a charge or reduction in allocation of text messages from their telecommunications provider. The bill defines an unsolicited advertisement as any message sent without the express prior permission of the recipient to encourage the purchase or rental of, or investment in, any form of merchandise, including services. Any violation of the provisions of the bill would constitute an unlawful practice subject to the monetary penalties put forth in the Consumer Fraud Act – not more than $10,000 for the first offense, not more than $20,000 for the second and subsequent offenses, and as much as $30,000 if the violator knew or should have known that the victim is a senior citizen or person with disability.
Under Senator Vitale’s bill, a person could not be held liable for a violation of the unsolicited advertisement ban if he or she sent an isolated text message no more than one time in a 12-month period. The bill would also require any telecommunications companies that sell or offer text messaging services in New Jersey to offer an option allowing customers to block all incoming and outgoing text messages.
“When a telecommunications customer goes over their allotted text messages in a month, the additional fees charged by telecommunications carriers can add up very quickly,” said Senator Vitale. “But particularly when it comes to unsolicited text messaging, the consumer may be footing the bill for advertisers to intrude on their own private mobile devices. That simply doesn’t seem fair, and we have to do a much better job in New Jersey to protect consumers from unsolicited text advertisements which can drive their cell phone bills through the roof.”
The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.