TRENTON – The Senate today passed legislation sponsored by Senator Nellie Pou that would update various provisions of the Consumer Fraud Act and the New Jersey Antitrust Act. The bill would expand language under the Consumer Fraud Act to prohibit commercial practices that are considered abusive, in addition to being unconscionable.
The bill would declare that, in actions brought by the Attorney General, any commercial practice that violates State or federal law would be presumed to be an unlawful practice in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act.
The legislation also updates notice requirements for actions alleging consumer fraud violations and adds indirect purchasers as parties who can receive damages for antitrust violations.
“Unfair, monopolistic practices hurt the New Jersey consumer, and make it difficult for companies to compete on a level playing field. Given the current economic climate, we forward this bill in order to expand consumer protections in the state, which are vitally important for working families across New Jersey for whom every dollar counts,” said Senator Pou (D-Passaic/Bergen).
The bill would amend current State antitrust law by allowing parties, including municipalities and the State, harmed by anticompetitive conduct to file suit even if they were indirectly dealing with the defendant. To avoid duplicate recovery charges, the bill would allow defendants to prove, as a defense to damage claims, that an illegal overcharge has been passed on to others.
Under the bill, S-901, private lawsuit notices would be required to be sent electronically to the Attorney General within 24 hours of filing rather than the currently required 10 days.
The bill was released from the Senate by a vote of 40-0.