Anti-Spam Bills Pending in NJ Legislature

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Two bills pending in the New Jersey Legislature would prohibit the sending of spam and would make it easier for consumers to collect damages if they receive unwanted e-mails.

Both bills were introduced in the state Assembly in January 2000 and currently are being considered by the Assembly Telecommunications and Utilities Committee. A396, the New Jersey Unsolicited Bulk Commercial Electronic Mail Act, was introduced by Democratic Assemblywoman Nilsa Cruz-Perez. A860, the New Jersey Commercial Telephone and Commercial Electronic Mail Solicitation Consumer Protection Act, was introduced by Republican Assemblyman Richard Bagger.

The Cruz-Perez bill would prohibit spam with false or misleading header information and would allow consumers to collect damages from spammers. The bill lets consumers sue spammers in state Superior Court and collect the lesser of $10 per unsolicited e-mail or $25,000 per day.

According to the bill, "no person shall send to an individual's electronic mail address unsolicited commercial electronic mail with false or deceptive message headers that are likely to confuse or mislead the end-user of electronic mail services as to the type of product or service offered for sale by the sender."

Cruz-Perez said spam is an "undesirable side effect" of the use of the Internet and online services.

"This bill is intended to add a strong legal tool to the various self-help remedies used by consumers to screen out misleading and unsolicited electronic mail advertisements," she said.

The bill introduced by Bagger is an extension of a larger telecommunications bill that would require telephone solicitors to register with the state Department of Consumer Affairs.

The bill would require all e-mail to be opt-in and advertisements to be clearly marked as such with the word "advertisement" somewhere in the message. It also would require ads to have a name, mailing address, telephone number and return e-mail address at the beginning of the message. It also requires all unsolicited commercial e-mail to be marked with the time and date sent.

"No person shall send unsolicited commercial electronic mail to an electronic mail address unless the recipient has consented to the receipt of unsolicited commercial electronic mail from the sender," the bill states. "The recipient of unsolicited commercial electronic mail may request, by electronic mail to the return address … the discontinuation of unsolicited commercial electronic mail from the sender."

A860 does not specify what, if any, damages consumers can collect from spammers.

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