The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act purpose was to combat sharp practices and dealings that victimized consumers by luring them into purchases through fraudulent or deceptive means. It was expanded to allow a private right of action for consumers that are victims of violations of the CFA.
The private right of action included provisions that allowed for entitlement to treble damages, reasonable attorney’s fees, and reasonable costs of suit. In a cause of action asserting a violation of the NJ Consumer Fraud Act a plaintiff must prove:
1) unlawful conduct by defendant;
2) an ascertainable loss by plaintiff;
3) a causal relationship between the unlawful conduct and the ascertainable loss.
D’Agostino v. Maldonado, 216 N.J. 168, 183-184 (2013)(quoting Bosland v. Warnock Dodge Inc., 197 N.J. 543, 557 (2009)).
If the plaintiff is successful in establishing his/her cause of action, the plaintiff is entitled to treble damages and an award of counsel fees under N.J.S.A. 56:8-19 as a matter of law. The trial court has no discretion to deny this relief because the CFA makes both of these things mandatory. D’Agostino, supra, 216 N.J. at 185.
The CFA defines the term "unlawful practice or conduct" as:
The act, use or employment by any person of any unconscionable commercial practice, deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, or the knowing, concealment, suppression, or omission of any material fact with intent that others rely upon such concealment, suppression or omission, in connection with the sale or advertisement of any merchandise or real estate, or with the subsequent performance of such person as aforesaid, whether or not any person has in fact been misled, deceived or damaged thereby, is declared to be an unlawful practice; provided, however, that nothing herein contained shall apply to the owner or publisher of newspapers, magazines, publications or printed matter wherein such advertisement appears, or to the owner or operator of a radio or television station which disseminates such advertisement when the owner, publisher, or operator has no knowledge of the intent, design or purpose of the advertiser. [N.J.S.A. 56:8-2 (Emphasis added)].
Issues regarding CFA violations can be addressed not only by the private bar but also by the NJ Division of Consumer Affairs (DCA):