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Articles Tagged with “New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act”

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New Jersey tenants are protected by the Anti-Eviction Act (NJSA 2A:18-61.1) and the Consumer Fraud Act (NJSA 56:8-1 et. seq.). Pursuant to Anti-Eviction Act, tenants living in illegal apartments are entitled a statutory relocation benefit of six times the monthly rent (NJSA 2A:18-61.1(g)(2) & NJSA 2A:18-61.1h). On the Consumer Fraud Act side, consumers are protected from unconscionable commercial practices which cause the consumer to suffer an “ascertainable loss.” Violations of the Consumer Fraud Act can trigger a consumer’s right to triple damages; an enhancing remedy in line with the relocation benefit. In the context of illegal apartments, can the Consumer Fraud Act and Anti-Eviction Act combine to give tenants two equally powerful remedies? The answer turns on how the damage to the tenant is characterized.
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Northern New Jersey cities like Hoboken and Jersey City maintain sophisticated rent control ordinances. Rent control ordinances are designed to provide landlord’s a “fair” return on investment while keeping urban housing rents affordable. When a tenant is charged an illegal rent (a rent in excess of what rent control ordinance provides) most ordinances require a landlord to give the tenant a credit towards future rent. The credit is the amount of the overcharge per month for as many months as the tenant was overcharged. But, the time length of the overcharge is not unlimited. Jersey City and Hoboken have two very different approaches to determining the amount of a rent control overcharge. The distinction lies in the difference between a statute of limitation and a statute of repose.
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Local rent control laws are an important part of maintaining an affordable housing supply in densely populated areas. Prior posts explained the basics of rent control and some nuances between cities. Generally, tenants who pay rent in excess of the rent control rent (the “legal rent”) have two remedies. The first is an application to the local rent control board (sometimes called a rent leveling board) for a credit. The credit allows a tenant to pay a reduced rent going forward until the tenant “catches up” with the overcharge. The second remedy is much more powerful. Violations of rent control ordinances are actionable under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (the “CFA”). Under the CFA, a rent control overcharge may entitle a tenant to triple damages and mandatory attorney’s fees. The principle that a rent control violation is also a consumer fraud violation comes from an Appellate Division decision called Wozniak v. Pennella, 373 N.J. Super. 445 (App. Div. 2004).
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New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act (the “CFA”)is among the most powerful consumer protection statutes in the country. The CFA provides for treble damages and attorney’s fees in cases where the Defendant is found liable for an unlawful practice. One method of establishing liability for an unlawful practice is by showing a violation of a regulation promulgated under the CFA. Car repair and body shops are subject to CFA regulation. Consumers who believe they have been harmed or “ripped off” by a mechanic or body shop should be aware of these important regulations.

N.J.A.C. §13:45A-26C.2 (the “Auto Repairs Deceptive Practices Regulations”) sets forth an extensive list of what practices are deemed deceptive and therefore unlawful under the CFA. Many of the Auto Repairs Deceptive Practices Regulations control conduct related to what a consumer is entitled to know and authorize before a mechanic or body shop undertakes a repair. Failing to inform the customer as required by the regulations can expose a mechanic or body shop to significant liability.
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What happens when “freemium” isn’t free? Parents of children who allegedly spent (in some cases) over $300 “at a time” on free-to-download apps are wondering the same thing. The controversy is centered on apps marketed to the public as “free” but that allow for the purchase of game currency (at real cost) once game play begins. According to parents in In re Apple In-App Purchase Litigation, 5:11-CV-1758 (N.D. Cal.; Mar. 31, 2012), their children added hundreds of charges for in-game currency during a fifteen minute window (while their password was still active) after downloading the free app. These parents believe this practice was deceptive and violates California’s Consumer Legal Remedies Act, Cal. Civ. Code 1.5 Sec. 1750-1784.

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Parents in New Jersey may be protected by New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act. N.J.S.A. 56:8-1 et seq. The NJ CFA is nationally recognized as consumer friendly and represents one of the strongest stands against deceptive business practices. It includes provisions for mandatory treble damages, attorney’s fees and does not require the plaintiff to prove intent. See Cox v. Sears Roebuck & Co., 138 N.J. 2, 24; N.J.S.A. 56:8-19. Considering the number of downloaded apps in New Jersey alone, there exists the potential for massive liability on Apple’s part. Rather than be subject to New Jersey’s strong consumer protection law, Apple would prefer to stick with California’s. A New Jersey parent suing Apple in New Jersey under the CFA will certainly face an objection to the application of NJ law. Apple will say that when the parent downloaded the app, she agreed to the “Terms & Conditions” and so CA law applies.
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