As a New Jersey business owner, you would never intentionally defraud your suppliers or customers. That is why it is such a shock to be facing a violation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (CFA). However, we urge you not to let confidence in your innocence prevent you from hiring the best legal counsel available. Contact Steinberg Law, LLC if you are facing fraud charges. We will get to work building your defense.
What Does the Consumer Fraud Act Cover?
It's important to understand the CFA in order to get a handle on the charges you are facing. There is no doubt that protecting consumers from fraudulent business practices is a good thing. Residents of New Jersey are fortunate to have such tough protections, but it can be difficult for business owners to navigate the law.
The language contained in the Act is very broad. It prohibits businesses that sell or advertise merchandise, services, or real estate from "any unconscionable commercial practice, deception, fraud, false pretense, false promise, misrepresentation, or the knowing, concealment, suppression, or omission of any material fact." The law applies to a variety of industries, from merchants of consumer goods to car dealerships, home improvement services, health clubs, and real estate companies. In addition, the "consumer" protected by the law does not have to be an individual; it could also be a supplier or another business with which you are dealing.
What Does the Plaintiff Have to Prove?
It's not enough for a consumer to uncover a deceptive ad or report that you did not offer a written contract in order to get damages. Instead, a consumer accusing your business of fraud will have to prove all of the following:
- Your business engaged in unlawful conduct, such as false advertising, "bait & switch" practices, not providing a written contract, or one of the dozens of other violations.
- The consumer suffered ascertainable losses, such as a car that won't run, repairs to a house with undisclosed problems, or fees paid without receiving services in return.
- There is a causal connection between your business practices and the plaintiff's losses. In other words, your unlawful conduct was the direct cause of the consumer's financial losses.
If the plaintiff can prove all three elements, you could be responsible for paying three times their demonstrated losses, plus their legal fees.
You Need a Skilled Defense Attorney
As with any lawsuit, you have defenses available to you when you are accused of violating the CFA. The most obvious defense is to prove that you did not, in fact, engage in an illegal practice or that the plaintiff was not harmed in any way. However, not every case is this open-and-shut. Often, these cases involve legal technicalities and existing case law that only an experienced business attorney can navigate. If you have been accused of violating the New Jersey Consumer Protection Act, contact Steinberg Law, LLC to find out how we can help.
Allow Us to Review Your Business Practices BEFORE You Get Into Trouble
The best defense is always a good offense. Our experienced business law attorney can review your contracts, advertising campaigns, and business practices to make sure you are within the law. Many business owners, particularly those without a business background, find themselves in trouble simply because they were not aware of the law. This is no excuse, however, and you should seek legal advice before you are slapped with a lawsuit.
Contact Us Today
At Steinberg Law, LLC, we believe in building relationships based on trust, honesty, and mutual respect. No matter what legal challenge you're facing, you can count on us to help you evaluate your options and determine the best way to move forward. We serve clients throughout New Jersey and are well-equipped to represent your interests when you are facing violations of the Consumer Protection Act. Don't try to go it alone! Contact us online today or call 908-685-0600 to request a free case review.