ASSEMBLY CONSUMER AFFAIRS COMMITTEE

 

STATEMENT TO

 

ASSEMBLY, No. 4097

 

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

 

DATED:  FEBRUARY 5, 2015

 

      The Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee reports favorably Assembly Bill No. 4097.

      This bill revises the "Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act,” P.L.1981, c.454 (C.56:12-14 et seq.) (TCCWNA), to prohibit consumer contracts from requiring consumers to waive or limit certain rights.

      Under the provisions of the bill, the rights that may not be waived or limited in a consumer contract are:

      (1)  any rights under the provisions of the consumer fraud act, the new car lemon law, the used car lemon law, or any other federal or State consumer protection law;

      (2)  the right to contact a law enforcement agency, State or local government entity, or any other entity for the purpose of reporting a consumer complaint;

      (3)  the right to bring a complaint or civil action within the six-year statute of limitations, afforded under current law;

      (4)  the right to have this State serve as the forum, jurisdiction, or venue for the resolution of any dispute;

      (5)  the right to bring a class action or serve as a class representative in any dispute;

      (6)  the right to discovery as provided by the Rules of Court;

      (7)  the right to bring a claim for injury to person or property; or

      (8)  the right to a jury trial, except that a consumer may waive this right upon the advice of counsel, as evidenced by counsel’s signature on the contract.

      The bill provides that if a contract contains any such provision, the provision will be null and void.  Additionally, a person who violates the provisions of the TCCWNA is liable to the aggrieved consumer for a civil penalty of not less than $100, actual damages, or both, together with reasonable attorney's fees and court costs.

      In recent years, consumer contracts have frequently begun to include provisions that make it difficult or impossible for consumers to pursue remedies for misrepresentations, deception, fraud, negligence, or even simple breach of contract. These contracts are typically standardized forms drafted with no input from the consumer, and offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis. A consumer, usually the less sophisticated party in a transaction, generally has no choice but to agree to the terms. This bill is intended to protect consumers from this increasingly common and unfair practice.