NJ Consumer Fraud Act Allows Individuals to Act

Individuals are specifically authorized to act as private attorneys general. The New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act’s provisions authorizing consumers to bring their own private actions is integral to fulfilling the legislative purposes, and those purposes are advanced as well by Court’s affording the Attorney General the broadest kind of power to act in the interest of the consumer public. The empowerment of citizens to act as private attorneys general reflects an apparent Legislative intent to enlarge fraud-fighting authority and to delegate the authority among the various governmental and non-governmental agencies, each exercising different forms of remedial power. That Legislative intent is readily inferable from the ongoing need for consumer protection and the salutary benefits to be achieved by expanding enforcement, authority and enhancing remedial address. When a remedial power is concentrated in one agency, under-enforcement may result because of lack of resources, concentration of agency responsibilities, lack of expertise, agency captured by regulated parties, or a particular ideological bent by an agency decision-maker. See, E.G. Arcadia v. Ohio Power Co., 498 U.S. 73, 87-88, 111 S.Ct. 415, 423-24, (1990); (Stevens J. concurring).

Under-enforcement by an administrative agency may be even more likely where, as in this case, the regulated party is a relatively powerful business entity, while the class protected by the regulation tends to consist of low income persons with scant resources, lack of knowledge about their rights, inexperience in a regulated area, and an insufficient understanding of the prohibited practice. The primary risk of under- enforcement – the victimization of the protected class – can be greatly reduced by allocating enforcement responsibilities among the various agencies, among the members of the consuming public in the forms of judicial and administrative proceedings, and in private causes of action. Lemelledo v. Beneficial Management Co., 150 N.J. 255, 269-270.

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