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35-year-old New Jersey statute offers protection to online shoppers

An old New Jersey consumer protection statute is being used to protect online shoppers from misleading advertisements. The law, which is referred to as the Truth in Consumer Contract, Warrant and Notice Act, was passed in 1981 to eradicate misleading language included in sales and marketing literature and product liability statements.

Perhaps the most interesting part of this law is the fact that consumers may not even need to be physically harmed by a potentially dangerous product for it to take effect, and may not need to have purchased the product. If a consumer is merely browsing a website where a dangerous product is being sold -- and the product liability statements are deemed to be misleading -- the consumer may be able to file suit.

Serious liability concerns for large-scale online vendors

The potential penalties for violating the law are relatively conservative, a $100 fine plus actual damages, but when applied to internet shoppers -- like hundreds of thousands of shoppers who visited and browsed items for sale on a website with national reach like Wal-Mart.com for example -- then one can begin to understand how violating this law could result in serious liabilities for a large-scale company.

Claims filed under the TCCWNA and demand letters have skyrocketed

At this time, New Jersey civil lawsuits citing the TCCWNA have increased in record numbers. These lawsuits are being filed from all parts of the United States by plaintiffs, who state that they were misled by terms and conditions included on commercial websites. These suits have taken the form of large-scale class actions against giant companies like Bed Bath & Beyond and Wal-Mart.

In addition to lawsuits, plaintiff law firms have been sending demand letters notifying corporations that the terms and conditions relating to discounts, memberships, sales and other information are in violation of New Jersey's TCCWNA statute.

Law may also apply to consumers who never made purchases

The TCCWNA not only protects consumers who made purchases, but it also applies to those who merely browsed a website and were thereby exposed to the misleading language and marketing at issue. According to the law, all aggrieved consumers and prospective customers have the right to receive payment for the TCCWNA infraction against them.

According to one personal injury lawyer's opinion, the language in the TCCWNA is clear: Even if the misleading language is found within a sales offer, the law applies, and neither a contractual agreement nor a completed transaction are necessary for a consumer to demand protection and financial recovery under the law.

How to learn more about the TCCWNA

New Jersey consumers who feel that they may have had their legal rights violated under the TCCWNA -- especially those who suffered physical injury due to misleading product liability statements -- may want to discuss their potential lawsuit with a personal injury lawyer. A personal injury lawyer will be able to evaluate the facts surrounding the potential case, review the extent and nature of injuries and provide valuable counsel with regard to the most appropriate next steps that can be made.

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