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Washington State Legislature Passes Bill To Expand Coverage Of Service Member Protections And Provide Additional Protections

The Washington state Senate and House of Representatives have passed a bill (House Bill 1056) that would expand the coverage of the Washington Service Members’ Civil Relief Act (WSCRA) and provide additional protections to active duty service members.  The bill is now awaiting signature by the state’s Governor, who is expected to sign it.  The bill is effective 90 days after the current legislative session is adjourned, which is expected to occur by March 8.

The WSCRA is the state’s version of the federal Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA).  Like the SCRA, the WSCRA provides various protections for active duty military service members, including reduced interest rates on preexisting debts, foreclosure and eviction protections, and protections from default judgments.

In 2014, the WSCRA was amended to create a private right of action and to authorize the Washington state Attorney General to enforce the WSCRA.  House Bill 1056 would further amend the WSCRA by expanding its definition of “service member” to mean “an active member of the United States armed forces, a member of a military reserve component, or a member of the national guard who is either stationed in or a resident of Washington state.”  The current definition only covers Washington state residents who are members of the national guard or a military reserve component.

The bill would also add a new section to the WSCRA that allows a service member to terminate or suspend certain service contracts at any time after he or she receives orders for a permanent change of station or a military deployment for 30 days or more.

The service contracts covered by the new section are: contracts for telecommunications services from a telecommunications company; health studio services from a health studio; subscription television services from a television service provider; and internet services from an internet service provider.  To terminate or suspend a contract, a service member must provide written proof of his or her official orders.

A termination or suspension is effective upon the service provider’s receipt of the service member’s written notice of termination or suspension (which can include email notice).  The service member remains obligated to pay for services rendered before the effective date of the suspension or termination, cannot be charged a penalty, lose a deposit, or incur any additional cost due to the suspension or termination, and can reinstate the services by giving written notice to the provider within 90 days after the service member’s military service terminates.

The bill specifies that the renewed services must be on the same terms and conditions that originally applied if the service member served for no more than 12 months.  For longer service, the terms and conditions for the renewed services must be the same as those offered to any new consumer at the lowest discounted or promotional rate within the previous 12 months.

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Anthony Kaye, Ballard Spahr Law Firm, New York, Business Litigation Attorney
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Anthony C. Kaye focuses on business litigation and complex civil litigation at both the trial and appellate levels in federal and state courts throughout the United States. Mr. Kaye has defended high-stakes, complex matters in a wide variety of areas, including consumer financial and mortgage banking services, intellectual property, business governance disputes, communications, product liability and mass torts, and real estate and construction.

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Culhane, Ballard, Partner
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John L. Culhane, Jr., is known for his work advising on interstate direct and indirect consumer and residential mortgage loan and leasing programs, through both traditional brick-and-mortar facilities and e-commerce. Before joining Ballard Spahr, Mr. Culhane was associate counsel with Mellon Bank, N.A.; associate counsel with Bank of America NT&SA; and senior attorney (section chief) with the National Credit Union Administration, the federal agency regulating federal credit unions.

Mr. Culhane addresses issues involving licensing, advertising and marketing, application processing, privacy, disclosure, pricing, substantive terms, servicing, collection, portfolio sales, and securitization. His regulatory practice includes preparing clients for banking agency and CFPB compliance examinations and assisting in the defense of attorney general investigations and banking agency and CFPB enforcement actions. His clients have ranged from a multibillion-dollar bank holding company, to one of the nation's largest residential mortgage lenders, to a leading provider of financial institution forms and documentation. Mr. Culhane is a member of the firm's Fair Lending Task Force.

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