Tagged: Truth in Consumer Contracts

New Jersey Supreme Court Holds “Illusory Discounts” Do Not Support a Claim of Ascertainable Loss Under the Consumer Fraud Act

In a 4-3 opinion, the New Jersey Supreme Court held that the mere purchase of a product falsely represented as “discounted” does not, without more, satisfy the “ascertainable loss” element under the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act (NJCFA). In Robey v. SPARC Group LLC, the plaintiffs – a proposed class of shoppers at the retail clothing store Aéropostale – alleged that the store advertised clothing as being discounted when, in fact, the items had never been offered or sold at the higher prices off of which the “discount” was taken. The plaintiffs contend that this practice of so-called “illusory discounts” violated the NJCFA, the Truth in Consumer-Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (TCCWNA), and various common law contract rights. The trial court dismissed the complaint for failure to state a claim, determining that the plaintiffs failed to allege an “ascertainable loss.” The Appellate Division majority disagreed and reversed, noting some confusion as to whether the NJCFA’s “ascertainable loss” requirement was the same as the TCCWNA’s “aggrieved consumer” requirement. The Supreme Court granted certification and reversed, finding that the plaintiffs’ NJCFA claim failed because they could show neither of the two recognized types of “ascertainable loss” for a claim based on a seller’s alleged deception: an out-of-pocket loss or a loss of the benefit-of-the-bargain. First, the plaintiffs...

Appellate Division Enforces Provision Prohibiting Class Arbitration

In Curiale v. Hyundai Capital America Inc., the New Jersey Appellate Division reversed an order denying a motion to compel arbitration by Hyundai’s financing company (“HCA”), based on an arbitration clause in a motor vehicle retail order. The Appellate Division rejected the trial court’s finding that the arbitration clause was ambiguous because it stated that the parties must arbitrate any claims and then explicitly stated that the provision bars “class action arbitration.” The Arbitration clause provided: AGREEMENT TO ARBITRATE ANY CLAIMS. READ THE FOLLOWING ARBITRATION PROVISION CAREFULLY, IT LIMITS YOUR RIGHTS, INCLUDING THE RIGHT TO MAINTAIN A COURT ACTION. The parties to this agreement agree to arbitrate any claim, dispute, or controversy, including all statutory claims and any state or federal claims, that may arise out of or relating to the sale or lease identified in this agreement. By agreeing to arbitration, the parties understand and agree that they are waiving their rights to maintain other available resolution processes, such as a court action or administrative proceeding, to settle their disputes. … The parties also agree to waive any right (i) to pursue any claims arising under this agreement including statutory, state or federal claims, as a class action arbitration, or (ii) to have an arbitration under this agreement consolidated with any other arbitration or...

Another TCCWNA “Website” Terms & Conditions Class Action Dismissed

Over the last year – and as we have previously reported – online retailers have repeatedly been targeted by threatened or filed class actions, premised on their website terms and conditions purportedly containing unlawful terms that violate the New Jersey Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”). Many of these cases have been dismissed by trial courts on state law grounds and, in federal court actions, for failure to demonstrate “injury in fact,” a fundamental requirement for Article III standing. Continuing this trend, the District of New Jersey recently dismissed yet another website terms and conditions class action grounded in the TCCWNA, Hite v. Lush Internet Inc. In Hite – as in so many of these lawsuits – “Plaintiff visited Defendant’s website . . . and purchased one of Defendant’s cosmetic products.” Yet, she “[d]id not allege she has any claim about the product that she purchased, such as fraud, product liability or tort.” Instead, “[h]er quarrel [was] with the provisions of the terms of use of the website” in that she “generally allege[d] that the exculpatory clauses contained in the Terms of Use violate . . . the TCCWNA because they unlawfully disclaim all tort liability.” Chief Judge Simandle dismissed the case, however, holding that “Plaintiff has not alleged an injury sufficient to confer standing...

TCCWNA Back Before the New Jersey Supreme Court

This year the federal courts in New Jersey have seen a dramatic uptick in the filing of class action lawsuits seeking statutory damages under the New Jersey Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”), particularly cases targeting merchants selling or promoting goods or services via the internet. These cases are premised on the notion that the “terms and conditions” or “terms of use” on a company’s website constitute a contract and thus subject companies to potentially massive class-wide penalty damages should the terms of use contain language which violates the TCCWNA. As motions to dismiss are pending in many of these cases, the federal courts in New Jersey may soon provide further clarity on a number of important questions, including: (1) whether online website users are “aggrieved consumers” as required under the statute; (2) whether plaintiffs bringing bare TCCWNA claims have Article III standing given the U.S. Supreme Court’s recent Spokeo decision; and (3) whether the statute reaches contractual provisions wholly unrelated to a consumer’s transaction.

Federal Law Preempts NJ Fair Credit Report Act and TCCWNA Claims, New Jersey Court Says

Claims based on a retailer’s improper inclusion of too many credit card digits or a credit card expiration date on a sales receipt may not be brought under either the New Jersey Fair Credit Report Act (“NJFCRA”) or New Jersey’s Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty, and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”), according to a recent ruling by the New Jersey Law Division.

Third Circuit Confirms Prospective Application of New Jersey Supreme Court’s Shelton Decision, Dooming Underlying Class Action

In a recent precedential decision, the Third Circuit, in Bohus, et al. v. Restaurant.com, held that the New Jersey Supreme Court’s Shelton decision — responding to a question of law certified by the Third Circuit as to the proper interpretation of the Truth in Consumer Contract, Warranty, and Notice Act (“TCCWNA”) — may be applied prospectively, thus defeating the class claims and leaving only two individual claims for a $100 penalty.