The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act is one of the strongest consumer protection laws in the nation. The Act was intended to give consumers a powerful weapon to fight against fraudulent and deceptive business practices. That power comes from a provision in the law permitting the consumer to recover treble damages, reasonable attorneys fees and costs if the consumer proves that an unlawful act was committed by a business.
The following are example of acts that may violate the Consumer Fraud Act, and thus unlawful in New Jersey.
-The use by any business of any “unconscionable commercial practice, deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise or misrepresentation” in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise or real estate. Merchandise includes products or services. This provision applies to many type of businesses, including auto dealerships, mechanics, banks, finance companies, hotels, insurance companies, home improvement contractors, telephone companies, and any other business from which a product or service was purchased;
-Knowingly conceal, suppress or omit important facts about a product or service intending that the consumer rely on such deception or concealment.
-Notifying someone that he or she won a prize and requiring him/her to do any act, purchase any other item or submit to a sales promotion effort;
-Failure to provide an exact copy of a contract to the consumer;
-A towing or auto storage company charging excessive or discriminatory rates;
-Selling over-the-counter drugs, baby food, or infant formula beyond the expiration date;
-Making a home solicitation of a senior citizen for a mortgage on the home to pay for home improvements;
-Used car dealer’s failing to disclose a known defect in the vehicle, misrepresentation in the sale of the vehicle, failure to provide a warranty, and failure to re-purchase a vehicle after unsuccessfully attempting it repair it.
The Act is very broad and covers a wide variety of transactions. The Act also protects businesses (no matter how large or small) as well as individual consumers. The Act applies to product or services for use or consumption by an individual or business. The Act does not apply to products/services intended for re-sale.
Recovery for Violation of Act
A violation of the Act would entitle the consumer/business to recover treble damages of actual loss, plus all reasonable fees and costs incurred. Even if the consumer cannot prove any loss at trial, reasonable legal fees are still recoverable, so long as the consumer can demonstrate a loss connected to the CFA violation. This provision was intended to permit consumers to retain competent attorneys without experiencing financial pain.