New Jersey consumer fraud attorney, Fredrick P. Niemann on the Consumer Fraud Act:
Many years ago (1960), the NJ Legislature enacted the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA).
The CFA was written to become a consumer protection law to regulate persons and businesses involved in the sale of goods and/or services in New Jersey.
The CFA’s original purpose was to enable the New Jersey Attorney General to investigate and take action against fraud involving the public. The law provided the Attorney General with broad powers of investigation and enforcement. Later on, the Legislature amended the Act to authorize private actions by injured consumers thereby adopting one of the country’s strongest consumer protection laws to address “unconscionable commercial practices.” What started as a small consumer protection law now consumes volumes of law including statutes with many sub-sections and chapters, administrative regulations and hundreds/thousands of cases. Today, the NJ CFA is one of the strongest consumer protection laws in the country. If you qualify, consumer fraud attorney Fredrick P. Niemann can help you get proper compensation under the Act.
The Act is a series of laws written to provide wide-ranging protection to consumers in the context of day-to-day commerce and business dealings. It is intended to protect consumers from deceptive commercial and business practices in the sales of goods and/or services. Deceptive practices need not be explicit, rather it can be an omission of material information which misleads a consumer. Because the law allows treble damages (treble damages are damages that equal three times (3x) the dollar amount of financial harm to the consumer), plus costs, and counsel fees to a successful consumer, it is important that consumers, businessmen and businesswomen in NJ understand the impact of this law.
Understanding the Vocabulary of Often Used Terms in the CFA
Most people associate the “Consumer Fraud Act” to primarily address consumers as its name suggests. But the term “consumer” is not used; instead, the term “claimant” is more often used. Claimants are individuals and businesses buying consumer-type goods and services as well as more sophisticated products and services (i.e., machinery, equipment, technology, etc.).
Same with the term “merchant”. Because the CFA regulates the dealings of sellers of goods and services, regardless of whether the seller is a million/billion-dollar corporation, a mom and/or pop business or a solo person acting as an entrepreneur, the CFA generally refers to each and all of them as “merchants.”
The CFA reads as follows:
“The act, use or employment by any person of any (1) unconscionable commercial practice, (2) deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, or (3) the knowing concealment, suppression or omission of any material fact with intent that others rely upon such concealment, suppression or omission, in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise or real estate, or with the subsequent performance of such person whether or not any person has in fact been misled, deceived or damaged … is declared to be an unlawful practice” and is in violation of the law.
A deceptive practice or the failure to disclose material facts surrounding a consumer transaction falls under the term: “any unconscionable practice, deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, or misrepresentation.” A consumer fraud case will be successful (or unsuccessful) if it can be demonstrated that the person engaged in any one of the forbidden affirmative acts described above.
Of special significance is that a person can also be found to violate the CFA if he or she intentionally conceals, suppresses or omits a material fact “in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise or real estate.” The keyword here is “intent.” The CFA requires that liability be based upon an omission, concealment or suppression of a known fact(s). Lack of knowledge of a material fact is a powerful defense to a claim of consumer fraud.
Under the CFA, as a consumer, you are not required to prove that you relied on alleged misrepresentations or sharp dealings or other wrongful business practices. But for any meaningful case worth pursuing, you will still need to prove economic harm. I’ll cover economic harm in greater detail later on this page.
Make no mistake about it, the law can be harsh. In fact, some say it victimizes innocent parties in addition to the “bad guys” by imposing economic consequences against merchants who commit unlawful practices including treble damages, and attorney’s fees, costs of suit, and other expenses.
Compensation to Victims Under the CFA for Actual and Provable Economic Loss
The CFA is designed to compensate victims of fraud and unconscionable business practices by way of legal remedies, including (1) a refund of money paid by the victim, (2) allowing the consumer to return the property acquired through a merchant’s fraud, (3) money damages equal to what was lost in the transaction, (4) cancellation of an unlawful and/or fraudulent debt(s) and contractual obligation(s) incurred by the consumer in connection with the voidable transaction, and (5) reformation of the contract(s) to comply with the CFA.
While the CFA attempts to punish merchants committing consumer fraud, before a consumer can collect compensation, he or she must prove an ascertainable loss (an ascertainable loss means provable economic damages) in order to recover money damages and attorney’s fees. I’ll discuss this point in greater detail later on this page.
If you have questions about a consumer fraud matter, please call Fredrick P. Niemann personally at toll-free 855-376-5291. You may also e-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He welcomes your inquiries.
Consumer Fraud Act Attorney Serving These New Jersey Counties:
Atlantic County, Bergen County, Burlington County, Camden County, Cape May County, Cumberland County, Essex County,
Gloucester County, Hudson County, Hunterdon County, Mercer County, Middlesex County, Monmouth County,
Morris County, Ocean County, Passaic County, Salem County, Somerset County, Sussex County, Union County, Warren County