The New Jersey Senate unanimously approved a bill Thursday that would prohibit companies from sending unsolicited advertisements via text message and allow customers to block all incoming and outgoing texts.
Originally introduced in January 2014, bill A617 seeks to put a stop to unwanted messages that may cause the recipient to “incur a telecommunications charge or a usage allocation deduction as a result of the message being sent.” For the purposes of the bill, an “unsolicited advertisement” includes any message intended to encourage the purchase or rental of merchandise that is sent without the recipient’s prior permission.
The legislation comes amid a trend in the mobile industry toward text advertising as companies and consumers alike look to capitalize on the newfound ability to use cellphones as shopping tools. MarketLive’s recent Annual Holiday Survey revealed that 78 percent of consumers are likely to visit a store as a result of text promotions or alerts sent via mobile prior to store visits. The survey also found 42 percent of shoppers are likely to take advantage of personalized advertising they receive on their mobile phone and 69 percent of consumers actually want in-store text messages that give them coupons or alert them to promotions.
Under the N.J. bill, consumers would presumably be able to opt in to these kinds of alerts, but the bill grants mobile users the power to revoke permission to send such texts “at any time.”
Once effective, the law will slap violators with a $500 penalty for the first violation and $1,000 for each subsequent infraction. The original version of the bill included first and recurrence penalties of $10,000 and $20,000 respectively, but was altered in agreeance with a conditional veto from Governor Chris Christie.
“This bill’s intent is laudatory, and cell phone customers should be able to avoid receiving unsolicited advertising text messages that result in unwarranted charges,” Christie said in his conditional veto statement. “Although we wish to discourage businesses from sending unsolicited text messages because they place unwarranted burdens on the consumer, it is important to note that such text messages are not automatically fraudulent or deceptive.”
The bill is currently headed to Christie’s desk for approval before it becomes law.
Filed Under: Industry regulations