(TRENTON) — Legislation Assemblyman Paul D. Moriarty sponsored to prohibit advertisers from sending unwelcome and unsolicited advertisements to consumers via text messaging was approved Monday by the Assembly.

“Unwanted text messages not only tax consumers’ patience, but they are a drain on cell minutes and bank accounts,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “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.”

The Moriarty measure (A-633) would prohibit the sending of unsolicited advertisements by text messaging if they will cause recipients to incur additional cellular charges or reductions in their cell plans’ allocation of usage minutes.

“Generally, telecommunications companies charge users for text messages that are both sent and received by the user,” Moriarty said. “The result of receiving a large number of unsolicited messages is that the subscriber will incur additional per-message charges, or a corresponding decrease in their designated allotment of allowable messages, as included in their service plan. What we’re trying to do here is assist consumers in avoiding unnecessary charges as a result of receiving messages that are unsolicited and over which the user has no control.”

Companies could send text advertisements only to cell customers who give express consent.

Consumers would be able to revoke an advertiser’s texting privileges at any time.

“The growing number of complaints regarding unwanted text advertisements can no longer be ignored,” Moriarty said. “Cell phone users deserve basic protections against business practices that cause headaches and cost them money.”

Violations of the measure would be punishable under the state’s consumer fraud act, with fines of up to $10,000 for a first offense.

Repeat offenses could be punished by up to $20,000 in fines, as well as injunctive relief, triple damages, and restitution.

The bill now heads to the Senate.

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