Articles Tagged with “Unconscionable commercial practices”

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The Magnusson-Moss Warranty Act was enacted in 1975 to govern written warranties on consumer products. Oral warranties are not covered by the Act. Commercial warranties are not covered by this Act. Warranties on services are not covered by the Act. Instead, the Act was enacted to require the manufactures and sellers of consumer products to give consumers detailed information regarding warranty coverage, and to require sellers to live up to their warranties.

The Act does not require that a warranty be provided. However, if a warranty is provided it must be clearly written and easy to understand. The warranty must be designated as either “full” or “limited” and readily available for inspection.

Further, if a warranty is provided, the Act serves many useful purposes. First, it allows consumers to get complete information about warranty terms and conditions. The Act also enables consumers to compare warranty coverage before buying a consumer good. Additionally, the Act ensures warranty competition by allowing consumers to be able to pick a product, based on a combination of the price, features, and warranty. Finally, the Acts provides incentives for companies to perform on their warranty obligations in a timely and through manner and to resolve disputes without delay and expense to the consumer.

The Act protects consumers in many ways. First, the Act prohibits the disclaimer of implied warranties when a written warranty is offered. This means that consumers will always receive an implied warranty of merchantability regardless of how broad or narrow the written warranty is. An implied warranty can only be limited to the duration of the written warranty. For example, if a written warranty is limited to one year, then the implied warranty can be also limited to a year.
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New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act (the “CFA”) is one of the broadest, strongest, and most far-reaching consumer protection laws in the country. The CFA states that it is unlawful for any person to use any unconscionable commercial practice in the sale of any goods, services, or even real estate in some cases.

 

 

The New Jersey Legislature enacted the CFA in 1960. Amendments in 1971 expanded the Act’s reach and purpose and included provisions to allow for individuals to bring private lawsuits rather than only allowing public actions by the Attorney General. However, the State still plays a significant part in enforcing the Act, led by the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Office of Consumer Protection.

In the attempt to encourage private actions and reduce the burden to the State in enforcing the CFA, the Act included the ability for claimants to recover treble (triple) damages, reasonable attorneys fees, and litigation expenses. This was done so that even those with little means to bring an action could recover their losses no matter how small, and, in the process, the punitive nature of the damages would further discourage those who would otherwise be tempted to use deceitful or fraudulent practices against others.

Since the CFA is a remedial piece of legislation courts tend to interpret the Act’s language very broadly with the aim of providing the most consumer protection. However, the CFA does have some limits and generally will not apply to claims such as denial of benefits by insurance companies, claims regarding employee benefit plans covered by the Employee Retirement Income Act (“ERISA”), claims regarding hospital services, employment claims, or claims against the government, public utilities, or licensed professionals. “Licensed professionals” typically include accountants, insurance agents, architects, doctors or other professionals where the claimant could have alternative options for recourse such as through malpractice claims.
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