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NJ Consumer Fraud

The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act is a 102 page document and is a fairly complex area of law. You can find useful information on this area of law at the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs.

Perhaps the best way to get a quick grasp of the definition of consumer fraud in New Jersey is to examine a partial sample of the consumer fraud jury charge as recommended by the New Jersey Supreme Court Committee on Model Civil Jury Charges. The charge below is what the trial judge "charges" the jury with after the Plaintiff and Defendant are finished presenting their case to the jury. The charge explains to the jury what constitutes the elements of fraud pursuant to the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. It is the jury's duty to apply the law as explained to them in the jury charge to the facts of the case they just heard. (from NJCourtsOnline - Model Civil Jury Charges):

Many of us have heard the Latin phrase caveat emptor, which means “let the buyer beware.” While it may state how the law was, it is not true of how the law is today. We have abandoned that old rule in favor of a more ethical attitude or approach in our dealings with one another. It is now the law that a person has the right to rely on representations made by another when dealing with that other person. New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act sets forth provisions defining this law.

There are three possible bases for responsibility under the Consumer Fraud Act. The Act itself declares two general categories of conduct as unlawful. The first relates to that part of the Act which states that “any unconscionable commercial practice, deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise or misrepresentation” is an unlawful practice. These are considered affirmative acts. The second general category of unlawful conduct is referred to as acts of omission.

Such conduct involves the “knowing concealment, suppression or omission of any material fact.” The third basis for responsibility under the Act is found in either specific-situation statutes or administrative regulations enacted to interpret the Act itself. Such statutes and regulations define specific conduct that is prohibited by law.

[Insert Definitions as Applicable]

An “affirmative act” is something done voluntarily by a person. It includes not merely physical acts, but also any steps taken voluntarily by a person to advance a plan or design, or to accomplish a purpose.

An “omission” is the act of neglecting to perform what the law requires. Liability must be imposed for such inaction, depending upon the existence of a duty to act under the circumstances.

[Return to Charge]

The plaintiff(s) here claim(s) that defendant(s) committed what is commonly known as a consumer fraud when defendant(s) (insert description of conduct). The Consumer Fraud Act says that anyone who (insert relevant parts of CHARGE 4.43 — Page 5 of 18 N.J.S.A. 56:8-2 or other specific statute or regulation) is chargeable with a consumer fraud.1

Of course, the "charge" to a jury would be about specific claims made by the plaintiff. The "[insert definitions]" section would insert specific definitions pertinent to the case being tried.

Fraud can be an "affirmative act" like:

unconscionable commercial practice
false pretense
false promise

"Acts of omission" may also constitute Consumer Fraud:

knowing concealment of any material fact
knowing suppression of any material fact
knowing omission of any material fact

Some of the areas that the courts see a lot of fraud claims are:

Auto Fraud
Charities & Fund-raisers Fraud
E-commerce Fraud
Halal Food Fraud
Home Improvement Contractors Fraud
Identity Theft Fraud
Kosher Food Fraud
Lemon Law (auto, new car, used car, wheelchair) Fraud
Regulated Businesses Fraud
Public Movers and Warehousemen Fraud