DECEPTION AND THE CONSUMER FRAUD ACT – PART II

Thus, if a seller of an automobile says that the vehicle has not been in an accident, when in fact it has been in an accident, that is an affirmative misrepresentation of fact which is false and inherently has the capacity to mislead a potential purchaser of the vehicle. This should be an actionable representation contemplated under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act, for which the plaintiff would be entitled to damages if a case was proved. There are other ways to prove a consumer fraud under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act where good faith might be a defense. As an example, if a plaintiff is claiming a material omission of fact, the plaintiff would be required to prove intent to pursue a claim under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. However, when the plaintiff is alleging an affirmative misrepresentation of fact, good faith is not a defense. As an example, if a dealer were to state that a vehicle was not in an accident and in fact was in an accident, even though they were relying upon a CARFAX or other industry accepted databases or documentation, they would not have a valid defense under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

As an example, there is a case under New Jersey law called Cuesta v. Classic Car. In this specific case, the seller of an automobile sold a vehicle with an inappropriate or improper odometer reading. The Court held that the improper odometer reading created a ‘misrepresentation of fact’ which was actionable under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. The dealer claimed they were unaware of this rollback; however, this is not deemed a valid defense. This is consistent with the liberal interpretation of the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act and the decision by the legislature to place the burden on a business to make sure that the product that they sell is in fact consistent with any representations set forth by the selling dealership or business.

A consumer should be able to rely upon the representations from the business since they are the experts in the field in which the consumer is dealing. It is an entirely separate post to quantify the amount of loss where the appropriate procedure or guidelines for pursuing a claim for consumer fraud under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act. However, this post just demonstrates types of claims which can be sued and the obligations upon a business when selling a vehicle product or other consumer goods.