The Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee advanced two measures Monday aimed at protecting New Jersey consumers from deceptive charges. Discussion of the bills displayed a few ways consumers could be paying more each month without knowing.

Bill A-1227 would make it illegal to mail unsolicited checks that once cashed would enroll the consumer into costly programs that periodically charge one's credit card.

Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, the primary sponsor of the measure, explained, "Consumers take these checks to the bank. They actually get five, ten, 15 dollars; they get the money, but it's going to end up costing them hundreds of dollars in charges on their credit card."

Small print on the checks indicates the endorser would then be added to a program like a travel club or credit card protection club, but Moriarty's bill would stop the practice altogether.

Moriarty said the companies sending the checks pay the credit card companies for mailing addresses.

“These so-called free money offers are at their best deceptive and, at their worst, downright dishonest,” Moriarty said.

Another bill that passed Monday, A-1585, would prevent consumers from getting roped into endless service contracts.

In an era of paperless billing and automatic charges, more and more consumers have been charged automatically for services they no longer want or use. Assemblyman Dan Benson's measure would establish notification standards for service contracts whose automatic renewals kick in after a year or later.

"I think there's a lot of companies out there that are doing the right thing, but we want to make sure there's a basic level of standard of notification," said Benson. "Before (consumers') credit card or other automatic billing occurs, they would get a written or electronic notification saying 'this is coming up, this is how you can reach us to cancel the contract.'"

Benson said the bill offers another level of protection for New Jersey consumers.