Proposed Washington law would hold carriers responsible for knowingly transmitting robocalls

Washington state elected officials have proposed changes to state law that would make it a criminal offense for voice service providers to knowingly facilitate illegal robocalls.

The proposal, HB 1051, was introduced in the Legislature by state Rep. Mari Leavitt, D-28th Dist., at the request of Attorney General Bob Ferguson to update Washington’s current anti-robocalling law.

Among other provisions, the law would make it illegal to robocall anyone on the Do Not Call Registry or to deliberately falsify the caller ID display of a call.

The law would also allow citizens receiving illegal robocalls to bring a civil action and recover up to $1,000 per violation.

“It’s time to stop illegal robocalls,” Ferguson said in a statement, which also referred to Washington’s current anti-robocalling legislation as “weak and inadequate.”

Washington’s Consumer Protection Act was updated in July to provide additional protections against telephone solicitation, including requiring telemarketers to identify themselves, the company represented, and the purpose of the call within the first 30 seconds, and to terminate a call within 10 seconds if a recipient asks for the call to end.

Ferguson wants to see further action from lawmakers specifically targeting robocalls, which are calls placed by an automated system and playing a recorded message upon answer.

“The Legislature must give Washingtonians stronger and clearer legal protections against the daily bombardment of illegal robocalls — and provide additional tools to my office to hold bad actors accountable,” Ferguson stated.

He cited statistics from YouMail that Washingtonians received about 616 million total robocalls in 2021, nearly half from scammers who bilked money from some 835,000 citizens.

“Our seniors, youth and most financially fragile neighbors are experiencing more and more scams in the form of robocalls and other electronic messages to cell phones,” legislation co-sponsor Leavitt said in a statement, noting that automated calls present “a prime opportunity for bad actors to prey on our senior citizens.”

Under the law, automated calls would still be allowed to callers who have a business relationship with the recipient.

HB 1051 is also cosponsored by Democratic state Reps. Amy Walen, 48th Dist., Tarra Simmons, 23rd Dist., and Cindy Ryu, 32nd Dist.


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