Ripped Off? Now What?

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Have you been ripped off by a car dealer, a home improvement contractor or some other business? Remember, there is no such thing as a “free lunch.”  Anytime someone tries to sell you something, you should take everything they say with a grain of salt. This is particularly true when you purchase a car, buy a home, hire someone to remodel your house, pay for any other type of goods and/or services, and particularly where you are entering into some type of written agreement.

Unfortunately, we live in a society today where some businesses make claims or representations that turn out not to be true or omit to tell you an important item, for example, that an automobile has been in a severe prior accident or a home has a wet basement. Make no mistake, fraud is rampant in New Jersey. The Division of Consumer Affairs reports that the largest source of complaints concern car dealers and home improvement contractors. However there are other dishonest businesses that rip off consumers for small amounts of money – which add up to a lot of profits for the business. When the amount is small, you may think that your damages are too small to hire an attorney and may not be worth the time to do something about it.

THE NEW JERSEY CONSUMER FRAUD ACT

Fortunately, New Jersey has a remedy – the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act- is the strongest consumer protection law in the nation. If you have been the victim of a misrepresentation, deception, fraud, false pretense or the omission of an important material fact, you may be entitled to three times your damages plus payment of your attorney’s fees by the defendant business if you have suffered the loss of money.

The Consumer Fraud Act covers almost every sale of merchandise and services. The purpose of the Act is to promote honesty and fair dealing in the marketplace. For example, any affirmative misrepresentation by a seller results in liability regardless of whether the representation was made in good faith or negligently. Businesses are presumed to have a superior knowledge of the goods and services that they sell as well as superior knowledge of the laws and regulations that govern your business. Accordingly, they are strictly liable for committing consumer fraud.

The purpose of the Act is to encourage private attorneys to represent consumers in disputes that involve small damages otherwise consumers would not be able to obtain representation. The defendant is required to pay the successful consumer’s attorney’s fees and costs.

AN OUNCE OF PREVENTION IS WORTH A POUND OF CURE

When you deal with a home-improvement contractor or other seller, try to limit the amount that you make as a down payment. The more money that pay a contractor upfront, the greater the risk they will delay the job, not return to finish the work, or not make corrections. There have been many stories where a contractor took a deposit and never returned to start the job or only did a little work and never returned.

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When purchasing a used car, you should always get a CARFAX and you should always take the vehicle to your trusted mechanic and have it tested. Make sure that any verbal representations that are made by the dealer are put in writing. Always read the agreement!  Many times, the agreements contain paragraphs that limit the liability of the seller, require you to give up  consumer protection rights, or say things that are completely opposite from that which the seller has verbally promised. Although “Buyer Beware” is not the law in New Jersey, not reading or understanding the terms of the agreement you sign is no defense—the seller is not required to explain the agreement and you cannot rely on the verbal representations when entering into a written contract.

The litigation attorneys at the Law Offices of R.C. Shea & Associates handle consumer fraud claims on a contingency basis. If there is no recovery, there is no fee. You are not asked to pay any attorney’s fees upfront because if we are successful, the defendant seller will pay your fees.  Call us for a free consultation: 732-505-1212.

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For more than 35 years, R.C. Shea & Associates, Counsellors at Law, has been providing legal services to individuals, families and businesses throughout New Jersey. When you come to our firm, your case will be handled with attention and care. At our firm, we have one goal: to exceed your expectations. We are committed to getting you the best results while providing you with the best service. Every day, we work to earn and keep the respect of our clients and the community. Our services include personal injury, workers' compensation, estate planning, real estate, land use and business law. We also handle municipal court violations and expungement.