On April 7, the Washington State legislature passed HB 1051, also known as the Robocall Scam Protection Act, which expands the scope of existing provisions of Washington’s consumer protection laws regulating robocalls and telephone solicitations to prohibit abusive telephone communication practices. HB 1051 will become law once it is signed by Governor Inslee.
HB 1051 prohibits persons from assisting in the transmission of a commercial solicitation using an automatic dialing and announcing device. It defines “assist in the transmission” as “actions taken to provide substantial assistance or support, which enables any person to formulate, originate, initiate, or transmit a commercial solicitation when the person providing assistance knows or consciously avoids knowing that the initiator of the commercial solicitation is engaged, or intends to engage, in any practice that violates the [Washington Consumer Protection Act].”
Activities exempted from this provision include:
- Activities of an entity relating to the design, manufacture, or distribution of any technology, product, or component that has a commercially significant use other than to violate or circumvent this section;
- Activities of a telecommunications provider or other entity that are limited to providing access to the internet for purposes excluding initiation of a telephone communication; or
- Activities of a telecommunications provider that provides voice services to an end user customer relating to the transmission of a telephone communication.
The bill also prohibits any person from initiating or causing to initiate a telephone solicitation to a telephone number registered on the federal do not call registry and causing any caller identification service to knowingly transmit misleading or inaccurate caller identification information with the intent to defraud, cause harm, or wrongfully obtain anything of value.
The new law provides a private right of action for violations of the law. Plaintiffs may seek an injunction and/or actual damages. The law also increases the statutory award for damages for repeated violations from $100 to $1,000 per violation.
What does this mean for businesses?
It is unclear how courts will determine what sorts of activities fall within the scope of providing “substantial assistance or support.” At a minimum, the new bill may impact businesses who engage third party telemarketers or companies that provide leads for sales and advertising. Moreover, the law provides further protections for violations related to blocking or disguising caller identification by creating a private right of action for such violations, which the TCPA currently does not. Nonetheless, due to the increased statutory award for repeated violations of the law, businesses should be hypervigilant in ensuring compliance to reduce their exposure.