(TRENTON) – Legislation Assembly Democrats Peter J. Barnes III, Patrick J. Diegnan, Jr., Paul Moriarty and Bonnie Watson Coleman sponsored to help consumers combat unscrupulous businesses in contract disputes was released Monday by an Assembly panel.
The bill (A-756) prohibits terms and conditions in a consumer contract that require the dispute be resolved in a venue, forum or jurisdiction outside of New Jersey.
“Consumers deserve fair consideration when it comes to resolving these disputes,” said Barnes (D-Middlesex). “Being forced to travel out-of-state is not fair consideration. This bill targets unreasonable provisions for the benefit of not only consumers, but also companies who favor customer service.”
“This bill is designed, quite simply, to promote fairness for consumers,” said Diegnan (D-Middlesex). “Companies with sound and fair contracts have nothing to worry about. This is aimed squarely at companies that intentionally try to make it tough on consumers to resolve disputes.”
“Consumers know full well, unfortunately, the frustration that builds when language found deep within the fine print of contracts purposefully makes it difficult to easily and readily resolve disputes,” said Moriarty (D-Gloucester/Camden). “Residents and businesses that play by the rules deserve better, and that’s why this bill is aimed solely at protecting the rights of consumers.”
“In many cases, consumers only have two real options: agree to the unfair contract language or refuse to use the product or service, which isn’t really much of an option at all,” said Watson Coleman (D-Mercer). “Enhancing consumer protections in this regard is simply the right thing to do.”
The sponsors said the bill will assure that consumers are not forced by businesses to resolve their disputes in distant and costly forums.
Consumer contracts increasingly contain forum-selection clauses that require litigation or arbitration to take place outside of New Jersey, making dispute resolution costly and difficult for consumers. These contracts are typically standardized forms drafted with no input from the consumer, and are offered on a take-it-or-leave-it basis.
The consumer is agreeing to the contract without the benefit of an attorney, and may not be able to afford to travel to resolve a dispute.
The bill was released by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee chaired by Moriarty.