New state law doubles down on civil penalties

Ain’t Playing

Aug. 1, 2018, saw the debut of a new law in Louisiana that takes dead aim at robocalls. Introduced in March 2018, the new law is a big ramp-up of the state’s previous statute.

The original law made spoofing – knowingly inserting false information into a caller ID system with the intent to “mislead, defraud, or deceive” – illegal. The statute allowed victims to recover the greater of three times the amount of actual damages or $5,000 per violation, and allowed the attorney general or district attorneys to enjoin further violations and fine up to $5,000 per violation.

The new law doubles the civil penalty fine to $10,000 per violation and prevents the statute from precluding other possible remedies sought by plaintiffs. Moreover, the new law makes violators subject to injunctive relief, and replaces the original recovery scheme with treble damages and attorney fees.

The Takeaway

While the ramp-up in penalties will please any Louisianan who’s been overwhelmed by robocalls, the sponsors of the legislation are realistic about the effect of the new rules.

In conversations with fellow legislators and the press, Pelican State officials shared their concerns: That for all the new penalties at the disposal of the state, the real problem was catching offenders in the first place. This is a common problem for state legislatures, since they simply do not have the reach to haul offenders – who most likely live in another jurisdiction – into the courtroom. Hence, the policy behind providing a private right of action: Victims and their lawyers can be motivated by their own economic benefit to bring consumer protection actions where permitted.