What is Wrongful Repossession?

Wrongful Repossession and claims under New Jersey Law
How can a finance company wrongfully repossess a car?

There could be various forms of wrongful repossession. The finance company could be wrong on whether or not they are owed money. The finance company could have improperly communicated with the consumer before, during or after the repossession because there are various notices required. he finance company could have hired a repossession company or a marketing company who could have hired a repossession company who did it in an improper fashion. An improper fashion with regard to repossession could be that the company actually repossessing the vehicle breached the peace or otherwise made misrepresentations in violation of New Jersey law. All of these actions by a repossession company could lead to a claim of wrongful or improper repossession under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act or under the Uniform Commercial Code.

There are other claims to wrongful repossession that are also in violation of the Uniform Commercial Code. The Uniform Commercial Code requires that the creditor would be reasonable or act in good faith with regard to the transaction. Thus, hypothetically, if a finance company were promised not to repossess the vehicle, if they received a payment by a certain date or time and they received this payment and repossessed the vehicle, this could be actionable under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act or under the Uniform Commercial Code for improper or wrongful repossession. Just because a finance company is owed money on a retail installment sales contract for collateral which a consumer is deriving does not mean that they can absolutely do anything they want to take possession of this vehicle back in violation of legal or industry norms. A finance company must comply with all applicable laws and make sure that the people they hire to actually repossess the vehicle must comply with all applicable state and local laws. If the actual entity repossessing the vehicle violates the applicable laws, the financial company would ultimately be responsible for the wrongful repossession.

The New Jersey laws that apply to deceptive conduct, the Consumer Fraud Act, also apply to the repossession of automobiles. New Jersey courts of held, at the Appellate Division level, that the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act applies to wrongful repossession’s equally as it applies to the initial sale of the vehicle.  So if you purchased a vehicle from a buy here pay here dealership you have claims with regard to the initial transaction. When and if the transaction resulted in the repossession for whatever reason, the individual who had the vehicle repossessed, who purchased the vehicle from the selling, repossessing dealership would have claims for the initial transaction and the repossession.

It is important to remember that the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act is liberally construed in favor of consumers since it is a remedial statute. This means that the courts have already approved the application of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act to repossessions of automobiles on leases and purchases.

The same standard would apply to damages. The plaintiff or consumer would have to prove an ascertainable loss associated with the repossession of the automobile to maintain a claim for consumer fraud under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. These claims are separate and distinct from any and all claims brought under the Uniform Commercial Code for wrongful repossession for which there are statutory damages.

On a wrongful repossession their statutory damages and other damages which can be collected constituting an ascertainable loss.