The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (NJCFA) covers any unconscionable commercial practice, false pretense, misrepresentation, or omission in connection with the sale of goods, services, or real estate transactions. Designed to protect consumers who are considered in a position of a disadvantage during commercial transactions, the act’s purpose is to encourage honest exchange and punish deception.
Unlike common law fraud that focuses on untrue statements, the NJCFA also includes intentional omissions along with misstatements and legal violations. If a consumer relies on the information, or lack thereof, to complete a transaction and suffers damages, then the defendant could be liable for three times the amount of damages the consumer incurs and attorney fees.
While this law traditionally involves the sales of goods and services, it also reaches into real estate transactions, especially rentals. This range makes this law a boon for consumers but a legal tightrope for businesses facing liability.
Proving a Claim under the NJCFA
Plaintiffs must show there was an affirmative misrepresentation or concealment of a statement of fact. While common law fraud requires that these declarations be intentional, the act also covers negligent misstatements as well. With omissions, the party suppressing the fact must have the intent to do so. If any statutes or regulations specific to the industry were also violated in the transaction, that could also spill over into the NJCFA.
Once plaintiffs show a violation, the next step is proving ascertainable loss. This loss is damage that is quantifiable, and it is measured by financial impacts. These do not have to be current losses either; any future out-of-pocket expenses can also be considered in determining damages.
The Role in Business Litigation
Consumers are common plaintiffs under the NJCFA, and since the act’s definition of “person” is expansive, a business can be a plaintiff too. As long as the company was retaining services or purchases goods or real estate that was also available in the consumer market, your enterprise can establish standing in an NJCFA action.
Whether you are a consumer or business considering a claim or a company who needs to defend against one, the Law Offices of John J. Zidziunas & Associates are here to help you. If you have been defrauded in the course of business or consumer transactions, contact our law office at your earliest convenience. We can examine your claim and check eligibility under the NJCFA. Call (973) 509-8500 for a free telephone consultation.