If you're becoming increasingly annoyed because you keep getting unsolicited text message ads, you're going to love this story.

A bill to prohibit advertisers from sending unwelcome and unsolicited advertisements to consumers via text messaging was approved by an Assembly panel yesterday.

"Unwanted text messages not only tax consumers' patience, but they are a drain on cell minutes and bank accounts," says Assemblyman Paul Moriarty, one of the measure's sponsors. "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. 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."

The legislation would prohibit the sending of unsolicited advertisements by text messaging if they may cause recipients to incur additional cellular charges or reductions in their cell plans' allocation of usage minutes. 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.

Bill co-sponsor, Assemblyman Ruben Ramos says, "For individuals with a limited data plan, receiving a large number of unsolicited text messages may force them to rack up unwanted charges on their cell phone bill. The growing number of complaints regarding unwanted text advertisements can no longer be ignored. 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 and up to $20,000 for repeat offenses, as well as injunctive relief, triple damages, and restitution. Additionally, violations can result in cease and desist orders issued by the Attorney General, the assessment of punitive damages and the awarding of treble damages and costs to the injured party.

The bill was approved 4-0 by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee and now awaits consideration by the full Assembly.