West Virginia Proposes Mini-TCPA Law

In late January, the West Virginia Legislature introduced two bills aiming to regulate and expand the telemarketing laws in West Virginia.

The first bill, House Bill 4886, would amend the Code of West Virginia by adding a new section that establishes a $1000 civil administrative penalty for each instance that a phone company, the definition of which remains undefined in the proposed bill, knowingly allows a telemarketing campaign to call a West Virginian resident without providing an option for the individual to call the company back and speak to a representative of the company. The bill exempts call centers registered in the U.S. and foreign call centers contracted with registered U.S. call centers.

The second bill, Senate Bill 500, proposes to add a new article to the West Virginia Consumer Credit and Protection Act (WVCCPA) titled the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.   The proposed law specifically prohibits:

  • A telephone solicitation “that involves an automated system for the selection or dialing of telephone numbers or the playing of a recorded or artificial voice message” without the prior written consent of the called party;
  • Blocking, masking or displaying different information from the actual originating telephone number or the actual telephone solicitor’s name;
  • Making telephone solicitations between the hours of 8:00 PM to 8:00 AM in the called party’s time zone;
  • Making more than three telephone solicitation to the same party during a 24-hour period on the same subject matter or issue, regardless of the originating telephone number; and
  • The intentional alteration of the voice of the caller in an attempt to disguise or conceal the identity in order to defraud, confuse or financially or otherwise injure the called party or to obtain personal information to be used in an unlawful matter.

Certain entities are exempt, including businesses that have an ”existing business contract or relationship” with the called party.  SB500 considers any violation of the Act “an unfair or deceptive act or practice” as defined in the WVCCPA and also provides for a private right of action, where a litigant can seek actual damages or $200, whichever is a greater.  The WVCCPA also contains a fee-shifting provision, where a litigant can seek attorneys’ fees and expenses as part of their relief.

States are continuing to regulate telemarketing by proposing their own versions of the federal Telephone Consumer Protection Act.  Both HB4886 and SB500 are in their infancy, but if passed, companies will face stricter telemarketing laws in West Virginia.