Last year, Sen. Mike Azinger (R-W.Va.) introduced Senate Bill 495 to the West Virginia Legislature, where it was referred to the Judiciary Committee. The bill proposed amendments to the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act, W. Va. Code § 46A-5-101, which was intended to “bring the Act in conformity with the federal Fair Debt Collection Practices Act” and limit statutory damages in WVCCPA cases.
Despite how the bill did not pass committee, Sen. Azinger has not given up. On January 8, he introduced Senate Bill 17, which proposes nearly identical revisions to the WVCCPA.
A key change proposed by Senate Bill 17 is to limit the cap on damages from violations arising under the WVCCPA to $1,000 per civil action. The current rule provides a cap on damages of $1,000 per violation, which are capped when either statutory damages exceed $175,000, or at the amount of the outstanding debt, whichever is greater.
In the context of class action lawsuits, Senate Bill 17 also proposes to limit the recovery of class members to either $500,000, or one percent of the net worth of the creditor. The current rule provides a cap on damages in class actions to the greater of either $175,000 per member, or the total alleged outstanding indebtedness.
Sen. Azinger’s reasoning has not changed. “The purpose of this bill is to clarify inadvertent omissions from recent changes to the [WVCCPA] that will bring it into conformity with the federal FDCPA,” according to the bill summary.
The bill would be a great benefit to debt collectors and lending companies doing business in West Virginia. Instead of facing multiple penalties in each lawsuit, a defendant would face only one penalty of $1,000 adjusted for inflation.
We will continue to monitor and report on developments in this legislation. It is unclear if Senate Bill 17 will have a different fate than its predecessor.