Many speculated that the Murphy Administration and the Democrat-controlled Legislature, chastened by the narrow election victory they enjoyed this past November, would not legislate with a heavy hand. People thought there would be moderation. However, it appears there will be no moderation in the few remaining weeks of the current legislative session.
Several Democrat legislators have introduced extreme bills expanding consumer fraud claims opportunities that will appeal to the plaintiff bar’s desire to pepper small and medium-sized local businesses, like auto dealerships, with frivolous lawsuits. NJ CAR opposes these efforts.
Two bills, scheduled to be heard at the Senate Commerce Committee hearing yesterday, were held at NJ CAR’s request and were NOT voted out of the Committee. These bills (S4237 and S4239) would extend the requirements of the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) to indirect purchasers and to service contract providers and expand the application of the CFA.
A third challenging bill (S3842/ A2635) was reported out of Committee despite NJ CAR’s opposition and, if approved by the full Senate, could get to the Governor’s desk before the legislative session ends in early January of 2022. This bill creates a new requirement for motor vehicle dealers to provide consumers with copies of their loan applications, allowing the plaintiff’s bar another opportunity to pepper auto dealers with frivolous lawsuits for technical violation of the law. NJ CAR will continue to oppose this bill.
The Committee also approved a bill requiring that consumer contracts be translated into the language in which the sales transaction was negotiated (S4238). NJ CAR has long advised its members that, to be consistent with the spirit and letter of the Consumer Fraud Act, accommodations should be made by dealers to ensure customers, for whom English is not the spoken language, get the benefit of a translated document or an interpreter.
Finally, we remind our members that e-signatures for powers of attorneys are still not permitted in New Jersey. These e-signatures will be permitted with the enactment of A5033, which the Governor conditionally vetoed with recommendations for the Legislature to consider. We await the Assembly and the Senate’s concurrence with the Governor’s recommendations. The Governor must sign the final version to make the bill a law.