In response to widespread complaints about selling practices that victimized consumers, the New Jersey Legislature passed the Consumer Fraud Act. N.J.S.A. 56: 8‐1 et. seq . The Act was designed to be one of the strongest consumer laws in the nation. Under the Act, a consumer who successfully proves both an unlawful practice and a resulting “ascertainable loss” is entitled to an award of treble (triple) damages and attorney’s fees. Unlawful practices under the Consumer Fraud Act generally fall within the following categories:
1. Affirmative acts. This conduct involves any unconscionable commercial practice, deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise or misrepresentation. Courts in New Jersey have held that to constitute consumer fraud, the business practice in question must be misleading and outside the norm of reasonable business practice such that it will victimize the average consumer.
2. Acts of omission. This conduct involves the “knowing concealment, suppression or omission of any material fact.” Here, the aggrieved consumer must show that the defendant acted with knowledge. Intent is an essential element of the fraud.
3. Violation of administrative regulations enacted to interpret the Act itself. The administrative regulations adopted pursuant to the Act spell out numerous selling or advertising practices in particular areas of consumer sales that are either required or prohibited. These areas include the sale or advertisement of merchandise or real estate, home improvements and/or renovations, as well as the sale of automobiles. As is the case with affirmative acts, an aggrieved consumer does not have to establish intent to evade or violate the regulatory requirements. The law imposes strict liability upon a defendant once the violation is established.
Court decisions have made it increasingly clear that in order to recover under the Consumer Fraud Act, a private plaintiff must show both an “ascertainable loss” and a causal connection between the defendant’s unlawful conduct and the plaintiff’s ascertainable loss. To be “ascertainable,” the loss must be quantifiable or measurable. Our attorneys at Westmoreland Vesper Quattrone & Beers have the business and legal background needed to successfully undertake consumer fraud actions.
To talk with an experienced consumer fraud lawyer, please fill out our Contact Form or call us at 609-645-1111 to learn more. We would be happy to arrange for a confidential free consultation.