Bill Boosts Penalties for Violating Consumer Protection Laws
TRENTON – Legislation sponsored by Senator Donald Norcross to protect consumers from being defrauded by unscrupulous precious metal buyers by increasing penalties for violations of certain laws that apply to these businesses was approved today by the full Senate.
“In this economy, some people are making the difficult decision to sell jewelry, sometimes after it has been in their family for many years. We have to make sure that consumers are treated fairly and provided accurate information in this process,” said Senator Norcross (D-Camden/Gloucester). “Any precious metal buyer that attempts to engage in unscrupulous business practices and to take advantage of customers by conning them out of money that is due to them will be met with severe financial penalties.”
In August 2012, the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, State Office of Weights and Measures within the Division of Consumer Affairs, the Passaic County Prosecutor’s Office and the Wayne Police Department conducted an undercover operation dubbed “Going for Gold” in Wayne, during which they visited a dozen cash-for-gold businesses and offered to sell jewelry. In all but one case, the business failed to either weigh or test the fineness of the precious metal in plain view of the investigator. Other violations included failure to post the prices offered for precious metals; failure to obtain the seller’s proof of identification; failure to issue the receipt required by law; and failure to use a type of scale approved by the Office of Weights and Measures. In all, 171 State civil complaints and 30 municipal code violations were issued against the 12 businesses.
The senator’s legislation (S-523) would increase the penalties for precious metals buyers who fail to comply with the State’s precious metals buyer laws and would require weights and measures officers to immediately seize a scale being used by a precious metal buyer if the scale has not been certified by the Office of Weights and Measures. Specifically, the bill would increase penalties assessed when a scale which is obviously generating incorrect weights is seized by a weights and measures officer from $50 to an amount between $500 and $1,000. Under current law, the penalty for violations of the precious metals buyer law ranges from $100 to $500. The bill increases penalties for all violations to $500 to $1,000. These would include violations for failing to issue a consumer an accurate receipt, failing to post the price being offered, and failing to weigh the item in plain view of the consumer.
“Our state laws require cash-for-gold businesses to follow specific guidelines in the purchase process, which are designed to help prevent the sale of stolen jewelry and to ensure that consumers receive the compensation they are entitled to and that reflects the value of their property,” said Senator Norcross. “By enhancing penalties for those who operate in violation of the law, we will send a message that we are serious about cracking down on corrupt business practices and protecting consumers who are looking to engage in an honest transaction.”
The Assembly approved the bill in April by a vote of 74-0. The full Senate approved the bill by a vote of 37-0. The legislation now goes back to the Assembly for a final vote before heading to the governor’s desk.