Owners and operators of e-commerce websites should be aware of an eruption in threatened and filed class actions against online retailers under the New Jersey Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”). The TCCWNA was enacted decades ago, as the New Jersey Supreme Court has explained, to “prohibit businesses from offering or using provisions in consumer contracts, warranties, notices and signs that violate any clearly established right of a consumer.” Yet, as laudable as this goal may be, with the potential for class-wide statutory penalty damages, the brevity and breadth of the statute has led to a tidal wave of litigation now targeting terms and conditions within e-commerce websites—an application of the law that could not have even been conceived of when the TCCWNA was passed in 1981.
Third Circuit Holds Truth in Consumer Contract Notice and Warranty Act Claim May Not Be Based Upon Omission of Price Information
In Watkins v. DineEquity, Inc., the Third Circuit recently considered whether the District Court properly dismissed a putative class action brought against Applebee’s and International House of Pancakes, in which Plaintiff claimed that Defendants violated the New Jersey Truth in Consumer Contract Notice and Warranty Act (“TCCNWA”) by failing to disclose beverage prices on their menus. In affirming the District Court’s dismissal, a divided Third Circuit panel ruled that the “TCCNWA encompasses only illegal provisions in writings covered by the statute, and does not make actionable omissions, including the omission of beverage prices from a restaurant menu.”