The Washington state legislature has passed a bill at the request of the state Attorney General that increases the penalty for violation of the state’s Consumer Protection Act nearly fourfold, to $7,500 — the first time the penalty has been increased since the law was adopted more than five decades ago.
SB 5025 now heads to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee for his signature or veto. The bill passed by a vote of 31-18 in the state Senate and 57-41 in the state House of Representatives. When it was originally introduced, the bill sought to increase the maximum fine amount to $13,500.
Washington’s consumer protection penalties ranked 46th among all states, according to a press release issued by Bob Ferguson, the state’s AG. Previously, the maximum civil penalty that could be assessed for violations of the Consumer Protection Act was $2,000. Adjusted for inflation, $2,000 in 1970 would represent more than $14,000 today.
“Washington’s Consumer Protection Act penalties have not changed in more than 50 years,” Ferguson said in a statement. “Today, the Legislature took an important step to fix that. Strong penalties deter illegal conduct that harms Washingtonians and allow my office to hold violators accountable. This new, strengthened law will provide Washingtonians with greater protections against illegal, unfair and deceptive business practices.”
Along with increasing the fines for violation of the state’s Consumer Protection Act, the legislation also creates an enhanced penalty of $10,000 per violation when vulnerable communities, such as seniors, immigrants, individuals with disabilities, or veterans are targeted.
The penalties for antitrust violations are also on the rise, to $900,000 from $500,000.