As consumer reporter Jeff Gelles notes, New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act is significantly different from similar laws in other states (“N.J. should think hard before a consumer protection change,” Oct. 26). Gelles’ article suggests the state’s sprawling consumer law is a good thing. But from a business growth perspective, quite the opposite is true.
States with predictable legal systems that discourage abuse allow businesses to more accurately project future legal expenses, allowing them to free up capital for expansion and job creation. New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act is predictable in that it generates litigation that is profitable for attorneys and costly for businesses.
Fortunately, strong consumer protection laws that punish business that defraud customers – without rewarding excessive litigation – do exist. The Legislature must work to put the Consumer Fraud Act’s focus back on fraud. Doing so would hardly sound the death knell for consumer protection. Instead, it would ensure that the law roots out fraud rather than serving as a gotcha statute or bootstrap for marginal claims.
President, New Jersey Civil Justice Institute