NJ Consumer Lawyer
If you live in New Jersey, you may be interested to know that you have some of the best consumer fraud protection in the country. The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (NJ Act) is a series of laws that make it unlawful for businesses to mislead consumers through deceptive actions or omissions. The NJ Act covers a variety of scenarios, such as buying a car, remodeling your home, pursuing higher education, investing your money, or protecting your online privacy.
The NJ Act is enforced by the Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA), which is part of the Attorney General's Office. The DCA investigates complaints and answers consumer questions every day. The DCA also houses approximately fifty professional licensure boards that regulate and serve professionals across New Jersey. The DCA collects millions of dollars in penalties and restitution from companies that don't deliver on their promises to consumers.
The NJ Act also allows consumers to file lawsuits against businesses that violate the law. Consumers can seek damages for their actual losses, as well as treble damages (three times the actual damages) and attorney's fees. This means that consumers can recover more than what they lost and discourage businesses from engaging in fraudulent practices.
If you think you have been a victim of consumer fraud in New Jersey, you can contact the DCA or consult with an attorney who specializes in consumer protection law. You can also check the DCA website for more information on how to file a complaint, look up a licensee or registrant, or search for registered charities. The DCA website also provides useful tips and resources on how to avoid common scams and protect yourself from identity theft.
Consumer fraud is a serious problem that affects millions of people every year. But thanks to the NJ Act and the DCA, you have powerful tools to fight back and protect your rights as a consumer in New Jersey.
Consumer fraud is a serious offense in New Jersey, and the law provides strong protection for consumers who have been victimized by deceptive or fraudulent practices. One of the ways that the law protects consumers is by allowing them to recover triple damages from the perpetrators of consumer fraud. Triple damages, also known as treble damages, are a type of punitive damages that are meant to deter and punish wrongful conduct.
The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (NJCFA) states that any person who suffers an ascertainable loss of money or property as a result of an unlawful practice under the act may bring an action to recover triple damages, in addition to reasonable attorney's fees and court costs. The NJCFA covers a wide range of unlawful practices, such as false advertising, misrepresentation, fraud, deception, concealment, suppression, or omission of any material fact in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise or real estate.
The purpose of awarding triple damages is to compensate the consumer for the harm caused by the unlawful practice, as well as to deter and punish the wrongdoer for their willful and malicious conduct. The NJCFA also aims to protect the public interest by encouraging consumers to bring actions against consumer fraud and by discouraging businesses from engaging in such practices. By allowing consumers to recover triple damages, the NJCFA provides a powerful incentive and remedy for consumers who have been harmed by consumer fraud in New Jersey.
Some examples of consumer fraud cases that resulted in triple damages are:
- A car dealer who sold a used car with a tampered odometer and failed to disclose prior accidents and repairs was ordered to pay $36,000 in triple damages, plus $7,500 in attorney's fees and costs, to the buyer who discovered the fraud after purchasing the car.
- A home improvement contractor who performed shoddy work and abandoned the project without completing it was ordered to pay $75,000 in triple damages, plus $25,000 in attorney's fees and costs, to the homeowner who had to hire another contractor to fix the defects and finish the work.
- A travel agency who advertised a vacation package with false and misleading information about the hotel, amenities, and activities was ordered to pay $18,000 in triple damages, plus $6,000 in attorney's fees and costs, to the customers who were disappointed and dissatisfied with their trip.
- The state sued Purdue Pharma, the maker of OxyContin, and its former president and board member for allegedly violating the CFA and the False Claims Act by engaging in a scheme to promote the use of opioids to New Jersey prescribers and patients, resulting in addiction, overdose and death
- The state settled with two major credit rating agencies, Standard & Poor's and Moody's, for allegedly misrepresenting their independence and objectivity in rating structured finance securities, which contributed to the 2008 financial crisis. New Jersey received over $36 million from the settlements.
- The state obtained a default judgment against a home improvement contractor and its owner for allegedly taking money from consumers for work that was never started or completed, performing substandard work, and failing to honor warranties. The defendants were ordered to pay over $250,000 in restitution and $3 million in penalties.
- The state alleged that a home improvement contractor and its owners defrauded seven consumers who received federal relief funds after Superstorm Sandy by failing to perform or complete the contracted work, such as repairing and elevating storm-damaged homes. The defendants were accused of violating the CFA, the Contractors' Registration Act, and other laws.
- A class action lawsuit was filed against several landlords for allegedly charging illegal fees to tenants, such as application fees, amenity fees, lease termination fees and late fees. The plaintiffs claimed that the landlords violated the CFA, the Truth-in-Renting Act, and other laws.
- A consumer sued a solar panel company and its salesperson for allegedly violating the CFA, the Commercial Code Leases and common law fraud by misrepresenting the benefits and costs of leasing solar panels for her home. The plaintiff claimed that she was misled into signing a contract that contained an arbitration clause and that she did not receive any savings on her energy bills.
- A consumer sued a travel agency and its owner for allegedly violating the CFA by failing to provide the promised services and refunds for a trip to Italy that was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The plaintiff claimed that he paid over $10,000 for the trip but received nothing in return.
- A consumer sued a car dealership and its owner for allegedly violating the CFA by selling him a used car with undisclosed damage and defects. The plaintiff claimed that he was charged an inflated price for the car and that it broke down shortly after he bought it
- A consumer sued a health club and its owner for allegedly violating the CFA by charging him an illegal cancellation fee when he tried to terminate his membership. The plaintiff claimed that he was not informed of the fee when he signed up and that it was not disclosed in the contract.
- A consumer sued a furniture store and its owner for allegedly violating the CFA by delivering defective furniture and refusing to repair or replace it. The plaintiff claimed that he paid over $5,000 for a sofa set that was damaged and stained when it arrived at his home.
Car dealerships in New Jersey are subject to various laws and regulations that protect consumers from fraud and deception. Some examples of consumer fraud lawsuits against car dealerships in NJ are:
- In 2020, the state Attorney General and the Division of Consumer Affairs reached settlements with two car dealerships, Auto Holding and Bridge Auto, for allegedly violating the Consumer Fraud Act, the Used Car Lemon Law, and other rules governing the sale and advertising of motor vehicles. The dealerships were accused of misrepresenting the condition, history, and price of their used cars, failing to honor warranties and pay off third-party contracts, and engaging in bait and switch tactics. The dealerships agreed to pay civil penalties, change their business practices, and enter binding arbitration to resolve consumer complaints .
- In 2018, a class action lawsuit was filed against Auto Group, a dealership chain with multiple locations in NJ, for allegedly charging customers a hidden fee of $398 for a "Theft Protection Package" that was not disclosed or agreed upon by the buyers. The lawsuit claimed that the fee violated the Consumer Fraud Act, the Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act, and the Motor Vehicle Advertising Regulations. The lawsuit sought damages, restitution, and injunctive relief for the affected consumers.
- In 2017, a jury awarded $31.5 million to a couple who sued Kia Motors for selling them a defective car that caused a fire in their home. The couple alleged that Kia knew about the defect but failed to warn them or recall the car. The jury found Kia liable for breach of warranty, fraud by concealment, and punitive damages. The verdict was one of the largest consumer fraud awards in NJ history.
Consumer class actions are lawsuits brought by a group of consumers who have suffered similar harm or losses due to the fraudulent or illegal conduct of a business entity. Consumer class actions can be an effective way to hold businesses accountable for their actions and to obtain compensation or injunctive relief for the affected consumers. Consumer class actions can cover a wide range of products, services, and industries, such as defective computers, misleading food labels, complex financial instruments, and anti competitive practices. Some of the most common examples of consumer class actions include:
- Market allocation agreements: These are agreements between competitors to divide or allocate markets, customers, or territories among themselves, thereby reducing competition and increasing prices. For example, in 2022, a class action lawsuit was filed against several major chocolate manufacturers for allegedly conspiring to fix the prices of chocolate products in Canada.
- Monopolies: These are situations where a single firm dominates a market and has the power to exclude competitors, control prices, or reduce output or quality. For example, in 2022, a class action lawsuit was filed against Meta Platforms Inc. (formerly Facebook) for allegedly abusing its monopoly power in the social networking market by acquiring or eliminating potential rivals, such as Instagram and WhatsApp.
- Price-fixing: These are agreements between competitors to set or coordinate the prices of their products or services, thereby eliminating price competition and harming consumers. For example, in 2022, a class action lawsuit was filed against several major poultry producers for allegedly conspiring to fix the prices of chicken products in the United States.
A lease buyout fee is a charge that some landlords impose on tenants who want to end their lease early and buy out their remaining rent obligation. This fee can vary depending on the terms of the lease agreement and the state law. Some tenants may find this fee unfair or excessive and decide to file a lawsuit against their landlord.
- In 2019, a class action lawsuit was filed in California against Avalon Bay Communities, Inc., one of the largest apartment owners in the country. The lawsuit alleged that Avalon Bay charged tenants lease buyout fees that were higher than the actual damages caused by breaking the lease, and that these fees violated California's consumer protection laws. The lawsuit sought refunds, damages, and injunctive relief for thousands of tenants who paid these fees.
- In 2018, a lawsuit was filed in New York against Equity Residential, another major apartment owner. The lawsuit claimed that Equity Residential charged tenants lease buyout fees that were not authorized by the lease agreement or by New York law. The lawsuit also accused Equity Residential of misleading tenants about their rights and obligations regarding lease termination. The lawsuit sought restitution, damages, and attorney fees for the affected tenants.
- In 2017, a lawsuit was filed in Texas against Camden Property Trust, a real estate investment trust that owns and operates apartment complexes. The lawsuit alleged that Camden Property Trust charged tenants lease buyout fees that were unreasonable and unconscionable, and that these fees violated Texas' deceptive trade practices act. The lawsuit demanded refunds, punitive damages, and attorney fees for the plaintiffs.
If you are leasing a car in New Jersey and you want to end your lease early, you may have to pay a lease buyout fee. A lease buyout fee is the amount of money that you owe to the leasing company to purchase the car and terminate the lease contract. The lease buyout fee may include the residual value of the car, which is the estimated value of the car at the end of the lease term, as well as any taxes, fees, and penalties that apply. The lease buyout fee may vary depending on the terms of your lease agreement, the condition and mileage of the car, and the market demand for the car. Before you decide to buy out your lease, you should compare the lease buyout fee with the current market value of the car and see if it makes financial sense for you. You should also check your credit score and interest rate to see if you can qualify for a loan to finance the lease buyout. Buying out your lease may be a good option if you like the car and want to keep it, or if you have exceeded the mileage limit or damaged the car and want to avoid paying extra charges at the end of the lease. However, buying out your lease may not be worth it if you can find a similar car for a lower price or if you want to switch to a different car model or brand.
If you are leasing a car in New Jersey and you want to end your lease early, you may have to pay a lease buyout fee. A lease buyout fee is the amount of money that you owe to the leasing company to purchase the car and terminate the lease contract. The lease buyout fee may include the residual value of the car, which is the estimated value of the car at the end of the lease term, as well as any taxes, fees, and penalties that apply. The lease buyout fee may vary depending on the terms of your lease agreement, the condition and mileage of the car, and the market demand for the car. For example, if your lease agreement allows you to drive 12,000 miles per year and you have driven 15,000 miles per year, you may have to pay a higher lease buyout fee than if you had stayed within the limit. Similarly, if your car has a high residual value and is in high demand in the market, you may have to pay a lower lease buyout fee than if your car has a low residual value and is in low demand. Before you decide to buy out your lease, you should compare the lease buyout fee with the current market value of the car and see if it makes financial sense for you. You should also check your credit score and interest rate to see if you can qualify for a loan to finance the lease buyout. Buying out your lease may be a good option if you like the car and want to keep it, or if you have exceeded the mileage limit or damaged the car and want to avoid paying extra charges at the end of the lease. However, buying out your lease may not be worth it if you can find a similar car for a lower price or if you want to switch to a different car model or brand.
Lease buyout lawsuits are legal actions that challenge the restrictions imposed by some automakers on the right of lessees to sell their leased vehicles to third parties at the end of the lease term. These restrictions prevent lessees from taking advantage of the high demand and low supply of used cars in the market and force them to either return the vehicle to the dealer or buy it themselves at a predetermined price. Some dealers also charge additional fees or require certifications that are not disclosed in the original lease agreement.
Lease buyout lawsuits claim that these restrictions violate federal and state laws, such as the Consumer Leasing Act and the California Vehicle Leasing Act, which require that all the terms and conditions of a lease be clearly stated in the initial contract. Lease buyout lawsuits also allege that these restrictions interfere with the free market and harm consumers who are entitled to benefit from the equity in their leased vehicles.
Lease buyout lawsuits have been filed against several automakers, by individual lessees and car dealers who seek to protect their rights and interests. Lease buyout lawsuits seek various remedies, such as injunctions, declaratory judgments, damages, and attorney fees.