Assemblywoman AMY H. HANDLIN
District 13 (Monmouth)
Increases penalties for contractors who victimize clients during states of emergency.
CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT
An Act concerning contractor fraud and amending and supplementing P.L.1999, c.129.
Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:
1. Section 1 of P.L.1999, c.129 (C.56:8-14.2) is amended to read as follows:
1. As used in this act:
"Contractor" means a person engaged in the business of making or selling home improvements and includes a corporation, partnership, association and any other form of business organization or entity, and its officers, representatives, agents and employees.
"Fund" means the Consumer Fraud Education Fund created pursuant to section 5 of this act.
"Pecuniary injury" shall include, but not be limited to: loss or encumbrance of a primary residence, principal employment, or source of income; loss of property set aside for retirement or for personal or family care and maintenance; loss of payments received under a pension or retirement plan or a government benefits program; or assets essential to the health or welfare of the senior citizen or person with a disability.
"Person with a disability" means a natural person who has a physical disability, infirmity, malformation or disfigurement which is caused by bodily injury, birth defect or illness including epilepsy, and which shall include, but not be limited to, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical coordination, blindness or visual impediment, deafness or hearing impediment, muteness or speech impediment or physical reliance on a service or guide animal, wheelchair, or other remedial appliance or device, or from any mental, psychological or developmental disability resulting from anatomical, psychological, physiological or neurological conditions which prevents the normal exercise of any bodily or mental functions or is demonstrable, medically or psychologically, by accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques.
"Senior citizen" means a natural person 60 years of age or older.
"State of emergency" means a natural or man-made disaster or emergency for which a state of emergency has been declared by the President of the United States or the Governor, or for which a state of emergency has been declared by a municipal emergency management coordinator.
(cf: P.L.2001, c.339, s.1)
2. (New section) a. In addition to any other penalty authorized by law, a contractor, as defined by Section 1 of P.L.1999, c.129 (C.56:8-14.2) who violates the provisions of P.L.1960, c.39 (C.56:8-1 et seq.) during a state of emergency shall be subject to additional penalties as follows:
(1) A penalty of not more than $10,000 if the violation caused the victim of the violation pecuniary injury; or
(2) A penalty of not more than $30,000 if the violation was part of a scheme, plan, or course of conduct
(a) directed at victims of a natural disaster during a state of emergency; or
(b) in which the contractor advertises, promises, or performs services for which the contractor is not appropriately licensed, certified, or registered.
b. The civil penalties authorized and collected under subsection a. of this section shall be paid to the State Treasurer and credited to the Consumer Fraud Education Fund created pursuant to section 5 of P.L.1999, c.129 (C.56:8-14.6).
3. This act shall take effect immediately.
This bill would increase penalties for contractors who victimize clients during periods when a state of emergency has been declared. Under the bill, any contractor who uses fraudulent business practices or otherwise violates the Consumer Fraud Act during a state of emergency would be subject to additional penalties as follows:
· Up to $10,000 if the violation caused the victim of the violation pecuniary injury; and
· Up to $30,000 if the violation was part of a scheme directed at victims of a natural disaster during a state of emergency or in which the contractor advertises, promises, or performs services for which the contractor is not appropriately licensed, certified, or registered.
The additional penalties required by the bill would be credited to the Consumer Fraud Education Fund. Currently, an unlawful practice under the Consumer Fraud Act is punishable by a monetary penalty of not more than $10,000 for a first offense and not more than $20,000 for any subsequent offense. In addition, a violation can result in cease and desist orders issued by the Attorney General, the assessment of punitive damages, and the awarding of treble damages and costs to the injured.