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Arizona House panel OKs ban on spam text messages

A company that sends unsolicited spam-like text messages using an automated system would be guilty of a misdemeanor if a bill given initial approval by an Arizona House committee Thursday becomes law.

The bill sponsored by Rep. Eddie Farnsworth, R-Gilbert, is aimed at companies that inundate multiple phone numbers with texts using automated systems. Many of those are for adult services.

The chairman of the House Technology and Infrastructure Committee that heard the bill said he has personal experience with spam texts.

“A couple of days ago, I got a text, ‘find all the hot babes in Phoenix,'” said Rep. David Stevens, R-Sierra Vista. “And it was unsolicited,” he added as laughter erupted.

The bill would add text messaging to a current list that bans automated solicitations in other formats such as landline phones.

Stevens described the ban as a form of the Do Not Call list for landline phones. He noted such texts could be costly for people without unlimited texting and just plain annoying for others.

A violation would be a Class 2 misdemeanor, which carries a fine of up to $10,000 for a violation by a company.

A lobbyist for cellphone carrier T-Mobile testified against the bill, arguing that it doesn’t contain an exemption for companies who can show someone signed up for texts. That often happens without the person realizing when they check a box, for example. He also said a federal rule on the same subject comes into play later this year so the bill isn’t necessary.

“Suffice it to say we’ve got some fairly serious concerns,” lobbyist John Mangum said.

The bill passed on a 6-0 vote and now goes to the House judiciary committee.

Stevens, a computer information systems professional, is pushing a series of measures aimed at improving the state’s oversight of technology issues.

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(Photo courtesy Arizona Motor Vehicle Division)

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