Assemblyman MICHAEL PATRICK CARROLL
District 25 (Morris and Somerset)
Concerns certain actions brought under “Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act.”
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning certain consumer fraud actions and amending P.L.1981, c.454.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. Section 4 of P.L.1981, c.454 (C.56:12-17) is amended to read as follows:
4. a. Any person who violates the provisions of [this act] P.L.1981, c.454 (C.56:12-14 et seq.) shall be liable to the aggrieved consumer for a civil penalty of not less than $100.00 or for actual damages, or both at the election of the consumer, together with reasonable attorney's fees and court costs. This may be recoverable by the consumer in a civil action in a court of competent jurisdiction or as part of a counterclaim by the consumer against the seller, lessor, creditor, lender or bailee or assignee of any of the aforesaid, who aggrieved him. A consumer also shall have the right to petition the court to terminate a contract which violates the provisions of section 2 of [this act] P.L.1981, c.454 (C.56:12-15) and the court in its discretion may void the contract.
b. No class certification shall be granted for any alleged violation of P.L.1981, c.454 (C.56:12-14 et seq.) in the absence of an ascertainable economic loss resulting from the alleged violation.
c. (1) Prior to the commencement of an action pursuant to this section, an aggrieved consumer whose economic loss is $250 or less shall first request reimbursement from the seller, lessor, creditor, lender or bailee or assignee of any of the aforesaid, as applicable. Any request for reimbursement made pursuant to this subsection shall be in writing and sent via certified mail, return receipt requested, and by regular mail. No action pursuant to this subsection shall be brought until the 35th day following the mailing of the request for reimbursement.
(2) In an action brought by a consumer pursuant to this section that is first asserted as a counterclaim, the reimbursement request requirements of paragraph (1) of this subsection, if applicable, shall be satisfied if the consumer’s pleading states the nature of the counterclaim and the amount of the economic loss. The party who has been served with the counterclaim pleading and who disputes the economic loss stated therein may tender the full amount of the claimed loss to the court or to the attorney for either party, to be held in escrow pending the outcome of the case. If that party chooses to do so, then attorney’s fees shall not be awarded if the consumer’s counterclaim prevails.
(cf: P.L.1981, c.454, s.4)
2. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill amends the “Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act,” (TCCWNA) P.L.1981, c.454 (C.56:12-14 et seq.), by requiring aggrieved consumers to have suffered an ascertainable economic loss in order to commence a class-action lawsuit for violation of the TCCWNA. The bill further provides that a consumer who suffers an economic loss of $250 or less as a result of a violation of the TCCWNA must first request reimbursement for the loss prior to the commencement of a legal action.
Pursuant to this bill, a request for reimbursement for an economic loss must be made in writing and sent via certified mail, return receipt requested, and by regular mail. The bill provides that no action shall be filed until the 35th day following the mailing of the request for reimbursement.
In addition, an action brought pursuant to the TCCWNA that is first asserted by a consumer as a counterclaim shall satisfy the reimbursement request requirement if the consumer asserts in the pleading the nature of the counterclaim and the economic loss in the amount of $250 or less. A party who has been served with the counterclaim pleading, and who disputes the economic loss stated therein, may choose to tender the full amount of the claimed loss to the court or to the attorney for either party to be held in escrow pending the outcome of the case. Should that party choose to do so, attorney’s fees shall not be awarded if the consumer’s counterclaim prevails.
A consumer whose economic loss exceeds $250 may take legal action under the TCCWNA without first requesting reimbursement.