New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

Capitol Report

August 16, 2010

This is a status report on recently passed and pending legislation, regulations, gubernatorial nominations and/or appointments of interest to lawyers. The report may also include information about appearances of New Jersey State Bar Association representatives before legislative committees, and the involvement of the association as amicus in appellate court matters. The state bar association's government affairs department compiles the report. Following each bill number is the sponsor's name, the NJSBA position, if any, bill description and status. Full and previous versions of the Capitol Report with links to related text are available online at www.njsba.com.

SPECIAL EDITION - CONSUMER PROTECTION LAW

This special edition of the Capitol Report focuses on Consumer Protection legislation that is currently pending in the State Legislature.

Pending Legislation

CONSUMER RIGHTS AND SAFETY

A-728 (Thompson) (Under review by the NJSBA) Establishes a consumer bill of rights for airline passengers and creates an Office of the Airline Consumer Advocate in the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety to protect the rights of airline passengers. The bill of rights provides that airline passengers on board a scheduled aircraft for more than three hours must be provided with electric generation service to provide temporary power for fresh air and lights, waste removal service in order to service holding tanks for on-board restrooms, and adequate food and drinking water and other refreshments. The air carrier must also provide consumer complaint contact information so that airline passengers may contact State and federal aviation agencies, including the Office of the Airline Consumer Advocate. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.

S-1384/A-938 (Weinberg/Vainieri Huttle) (Under review by the NJSBA) Requires retailers to post warnings of lead poisoning from improper paint removal. On June 21, A-938 passed in the Assembly (69-10-1), was received in the Senate and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee. S-1384 was introduced and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee on Feb. 11.

CONTRACTS AND SERVICES

A-1426 (Prieto) (Under review by the NJSBA) This bill regulates the sale and implementation of certain service contracts for the repair, replacement, maintenance, or service of property used for personal, family or household purposes. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.

S-1630/A-2051 (Van Drew/DeAngelo) (NJSBA supports w/ amendments) This bill invalidates any consumer contract that contains language requiring the consumer to waive his right to contact a law enforcement agency, State, county, or municipal department or agency, or any other entity for the purposes of reporting a consumer complaint. On March 4, S-1630 was introduced and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee. A-2051 was introduced and referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee on Feb. 8.

S-474 (Lesniak) (Under review by the NJSBA) This bill, the "Consumer Electronics Warranty Lemon Law," regulates warranties, extended warranties, and service contracts for electronics. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.

LOSS AND COMPLAINTS

A-1401 (Carroll) (Under review by the NJSBA) Requires a person who suffers an ascertainable loss of money of $250 or less as a result of an unlawful act by another person must first request a refund of the money lost before commencing legal action under the consumer fraud act. A request for a refund must be in writing and sent via certified mail, return receipt requested, and by regular mail. Under the bill, no action shall be filed until the 35th day following the mailing of the request for the refund. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.

MOTOR VEHICLES

S-726 (Sacco) (Under review by the NJSBA) Prohibits purchaser of used motor vehicle from waiving dealer's obligation regarding emissions control equipment. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Transportation Committee.

A-1412 (Prieto) (NJSBA supports) Revises "lemon law" refund formula for consumers of certain new motor vehicles. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.

PERSONAL INFORMATION AND PRIVACY

S-280/A-2653 (Stack/Gusciora) (NJSBA supports w/ amendments) Requires the Division of Consumer Affairs in the Department of Law and Public Safety to establish and maintain a credit card do-not-solicit list containing the names of mentally ill individuals and senior citizens in this State who are not to be solicited for credit cards. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.

A-124 (Biondi) (Under review by the NJSBA) This bill makes it a crime of the fourth degree for a person to negligently provide confidential information to a third party without first taking reasonable and adequate steps to ensure that the requestor is either the person to whom the confidential information belongs or is authorized to request the information. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

A-175 (Chiusano) (Under review by the NJSBA) Enhances duty and broadens liability concerning security of personal information, and response to breach of security, under "Identity Theft Prevention Act." On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.

REAL ESTATE

A-644 (Moriarty) (NJSBA opposes) The "Truth in Mortgaging Act"; creates the crime of residential mortgage fraud. This bill provides that a person who commits the offense of residential mortgage fraud is guilty of a crime of the third degree and subject to imprisonment for a term of three to five years and to a fine not to exceed $15,000, or both. The bill also provides that a person who engages in a pattern of residential mortgage fraud is guilty of a crime of the second degree and subject to imprisonment for a term of five to 10 years and to a fine not to exceed $150,000, or both. Each residential property transaction subject to the act shall constitute a separate offense and shall not merge with other crimes. In addition, where an assignment judge determines that the infraction is de minimus, the assignment judge may dismiss the prosecution of residential mortgage fraud. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Financial Institutions & Insurance Committee.

S-841 (Turner) (Under review by the NJSBA) This bill, "Foreclosure Consulting and Anti-Fraud Act," expands and clarifies the existing scope and provisions of P.L.1979, c.16 (C.17:16G-1 et seq.), concerning debt adjustment and credit counseling activities, and expressly incorporates certain foreclosure consulting practices therein. On Feb. 1, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.

S-1481 (Rice) (Under review by the NJSBA) This bill would enhance the protections afforded under current law to purchasers of new homes by strengthening and expanding the protections provided by "The New Home Warranty and Builders' Registration Act." This bill is based upon recommendations contained in the State Commission of Investigation's March, 2005 report entitled "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: New Home Construction in New Jersey." On Feb. 22, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Community & Urban Affairs Committee.

S-1483 (Rice) (Under review by the NJSBA) Establishes "New Homebuyers' Bill of Rights Act" and would require every contract for the purchase of a new home to set forth these rights. The bill combines several of the recommendations contained in the State Commission of Investigation's March, 2005 report entitled "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly: New Home Construction in New Jersey." On Feb. 22, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Community & Urban Affairs Committee.

SALES AND MERCHANDISE

A-638 (Moriarty) (NJSBA takes no position) Prohibits display of gift card account numbers. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.

A-1140 (Evans) (Under review by the NJSBA) Includes security fraud as violation of the Consumer Fraud Act. The bill adds "securities" to the definition of "merchandise" in the act, which protects consumers from deceptive sales or advertising practices in the marketing of merchandise. The consumer fraud act currently defines merchandise to include any objects, wares, goods, commodities, services or anything offered, directly or indirectly, to the public for sale. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Financial Institutions and Insurance Committee.

A-1233 (Stender) (NJSBA takes no position) Requires magazine distributors and solicitors of magazine subscription sales to disclose information concerning when a current subscription expires in certain communications with the consumer. On June 21, the bill passed in the Assembly (69-11), was received in the Senate and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.

TELEPHONE SERVICES

A-643 (Moriarty) (NJSBA supports w/ amendments) Wireless Telephone Consumer Protection Act; establishes certain consumer protections for wireless telephone subscribers. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.

S-789 (Madden) (NJSBA supports w/ amendments) This bill, "Consumer Telephone Records Protection Act of 2008," would make it a crime of the third degree, and an unlawful practice under the Consumer Fraud Act, for any person to obtain or attempt to obtain confidential customer telephone records information from an entity that provides voice services, without the customer's authorization, by making false or fraudulent statements, knowingly providing false documentation, or accessing customer records through the Internet. Under the bill, aggravated cases, in which the person violates another State or federal law, or is involved in a pattern of illegal activity involving more than $100,000 or more than 50 customers of an entity that provides voice services within a 12-month period, are considered offenses of the second degree. On Jan. 12, the bill was introduced and referred to the Senate Commerce Committee.

Note: "Under review by the NJSBA" means that the bill is currently being examined by NJSBA sections, committees and/or Board of Trustees and a final position has not yet been reached on the measure.