Making the Law make Sense
Areas of practice: Real Estate , Family Law, Civil Litigation, Estate Planning, Business Law, Consumer Law, Bankruptcy, Collection Defense, Landlord/Tenant.
Copyright © Laurie Doran Law 2015
Not all businesses operate ethically. Ever been overcharged for a tow, or had an auto mechanic work on your car without providing an estimate and then asked to pay a lot more money than you expected to pay? Ever have a retailer refuse to accept the return of a defective item, or had a building contractor fail to complete a remodeling project on time, or had an insurance company refuse to pay a claim, or had a car dealer fail to disclose prior damage to a used car it sold you? These are common examples of unfair trade practices used against consumers every day.
To combat these kinds of practices, many states and the Federal Government have enacted laws to protect consumers against fraudulent, deceptive or unconscionable trade practices. Laws such as the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), the Truth in Lending Act, the Fair Credit Reporting Act, the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA), just to name a few.
New Jersey’s CFA is one of the strongest pieces of legislation enacted to protect consumers. It provides for statutory fines, restitution, and generally requires the payment of three times the damages shown by the consumer as resulting from any violation of the Act, no matter how minor. It also provides for payment of the aggrieved consumer’s attorney’s fees. It is very effective, but only when the consumer knows his or her rights and asserts them.
Even businesses that try to deal fairly with its customers may unknowingly violate consumer protection laws - even businesses that have been operating without incident for many years. Current consumer laws are so powerful that they can be used by customers as a means to avoid payment. Even a minor defect in a contract can have the effect of invalidating the deal, thus preventing further collection and may even mandate a full refund. I frequently represent business owners in defending consumer claims. The best defense starts long before any claim is filed with a review the business' contracts and practices to make sure they are compliant with applicable consumer laws. With statutory penalties being as high as $10,000.00 for even technical violations of the CFA, it is a necessity to take the time to understand the legal restrictions businesses must act within.