Bill Text: NJ S3216 | 2018-2019 | Regular Session | Introduced


Bill Title: Increases penalties for contractors who victimize clients during states of emergency.

Spectrum: Partisan Bill (Democrat 1-0)

Status: (Introduced) 2018-12-03 - Introduced in the Senate, Referred to Senate Commerce Committee [S3216 Detail]

Download: New_Jersey-2018-S3216-Introduced.html

SENATE, No. 3216

STATE OF NEW JERSEY

218th LEGISLATURE

 

INTRODUCED DECEMBER 3, 2018

 


 

Sponsored by:

Senator  LINDA R. GREENSTEIN

District 14 (Mercer and Middlesex)

 

 

 

 

SYNOPSIS

     Increases penalties for contractors who victimize clients during states of emergency.

 

CURRENT VERSION OF TEXT

     As introduced.

  


An Act concerning contractor fraud and amending and supplementing P.L.1999, c.129.

 

     Be It Enacted by the Senate and General Assembly of the State of New Jersey:

 

     1.    Section 1 of P.L.1999, c.129 (C.56:8-14.2) is amended to read as follows:

     1.    As used in this act:

     "Contractor" means a person engaged in the business of making or selling home improvements and includes a corporation, partnership, association and any other form of business organization or entity, and its officers, representatives, agents and employees.

     "Fund" means the Consumer Fraud Education Fund created pursuant to section 5 of P.L.1999, c.129 (C.56:8-14.6).

     "Pecuniary injury" shall include, but not be limited to: loss or encumbrance of a primary residence, principal employment, or source of income; loss of property set aside for retirement or for personal or family care and maintenance; loss of payments received under a pension or retirement plan or a government benefits program; or assets essential to the health or welfare of the senior citizen or person with a disability.

     "Person with a disability" means a natural person who has a physical disability, infirmity, malformation, or disfigurement which is caused by bodily injury, birth defect, or illness including epilepsy, and which shall include, but not be limited to, any degree of paralysis, amputation, lack of physical coordination, blindness or visual impairment, deafness or deaf-blindness or hearing impairment, inability to speak or speech impairment, or physical reliance on a service animal, wheelchair, or other remedial appliance or device, or from any mental, psychological, or developmental disability resulting from anatomical, psychological, physiological, or neurological conditions which prevents the normal exercise of any bodily or mental functions or is demonstrable, medically or psychologically, by accepted clinical or laboratory diagnostic techniques.

     "Senior citizen" means a natural person 60 years of age or older.

     "State of emergency" means a natural or man-made disaster or emergency for which a state of emergency has been declared by the President of the United States or the Governor, or for which a state of emergency has been declared by a municipal emergency management coordinator.

(cf: P.L.2017, c.131, s.217)

 

     2.    (New section)  a.  In addition to any other penalty authorized by law, a contractor, as defined by Section 1 of P.L.1999, c.129 (C.56:8-14.2) who violates the provisions of P.L.1960, c.39 (C.56:8-1 et seq.) during a state of emergency shall be subject to additional penalties as follows:

     (1)   A penalty of not more than $10,000 if the violation caused the victim of the violation pecuniary injury; or

     (2)   A penalty of not more than $30,000 if the violation was part of a scheme, plan, or course of conduct:

     (a)   directed at victims of a natural disaster during a state of emergency; or

     (b)   in which the contractor advertises, promises, or performs services for which the contractor is not appropriately licensed, certified, or registered.

     b.    The civil penalties authorized and collected under subsection a. of this section shall be paid to the State Treasurer and credited to the Consumer Fraud Education Fund created pursuant to section 5 of P.L.1999, c.129 (C.56:8-14.6).

 

     3.    Section 5 of P.L.1999, c.129 (C.56:8-14.6) is amended to read as follows:

     5.    a.  There is established in the General Fund a special fund to be known as the Consumer Fraud Education Fund.  The State Treasurer shall credit to the fund all moneys received by the State for penalties assessed pursuant to section 2 of P.L.1999, c.129 (C.56:8-14.3) and section 2 of P.L.    , c.    (C.        ) (pending before the Legislature as this bill).  The fund shall be continuing and nonlapsing.  The fund shall be administered by the State Treasurer, and any interest earned on moneys in the fund shall be credited to the fund.

     b.    The Division of Consumer Affairs may draw upon the fund to effectuate the purposes of section 4 of P.L.1999, c.129 (C.56:8-14.5) and to pay reasonable and necessary administrative expenses incurred in implementing the provisions of this act to the extent that moneys are available.

(cf.: P.L.1999, c.129, s.5)

 

     4.    This act shall take effect immediately.

 

 

STATEMENT

 

     This bill would increase penalties for contractors who victimize clients during periods when a state of emergency has been declared. Under the bill, any contractor who uses fraudulent business practices or otherwise violates the Consumer Fraud Act during a state of emergency would be subject to additional penalties as follows:

         Up to $10,000 if the violation caused the victim of the violation pecuniary injury; and

         Up to $30,000 if the violation was part of a scheme directed at victims of a natural disaster during a state of emergency or in which the contractor advertises, promises, or performs services for which the contractor is not appropriately licensed, certified, or registered.

 

     The additional penalties required by the bill would be credited to the Consumer Fraud Education Fund.  Currently, an unlawful practice under the Consumer Fraud Act is punishable by a monetary penalty of not more than $10,000 for a first offense and not more than $20,000 for any subsequent offense.  In addition, a violation can result in cease and desist orders issued by the Attorney General, the assessment of punitive damages, and the awarding of treble damages and costs to the injured.

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