Greenwald Bill to Protect Consumers’ Right to Report Vehicle Safety Concerns Clears Assembly Committee

Measure Would Prohibit Contract Clauses That Penalize Public Comments Regarding Auto Defects

Legislation Assembly Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald sponsored to prohibit auto dealers and manufacturers from restricting a car owner’s right to discuss vehicle defects and repairs was advanced Thursday by an Assembly committee.

The bill arises from a June report of a Tesla automobile owner who sought repairs to a front wheel that detached from his vehicle and was told that the company would pay for a portion of the repairs only if he agreed not to make any public statements regarding the defect. While Tesla has since modified language in its “goodwill agreements,” taking action via the legislation will ban a practice that can deter drivers from reporting concerns to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Greenwald said.

“The chilling effect a non-disclosure clause has on car owners – whether they wish to discuss repairs on an online forum or report concerns to the proper authorities – threatens public safety,” said Greenwald (D-Camden/Burlington). “Eliminating the potential for legal repercussions will allow anyone who becomes aware of a problem to share that information freely.”

The bill (A-4044) would supplement New Jersey’s Lemon Law to prohibit non-disclosure clauses in contracts for the sale, lease or repair of a vehicle. The legislation would protect a consumer’s right to make any statement, including statements posted online, regarding the manufacturer, seller or lessor of the vehicle, or its employees or agents, or concerning any goods or services rendered pursuant to the contract.

A violation of the bill’s provisions would carry a penalty of up to $5,000 for the first offense and up to $10,000 for each subsequent offense.

The measure was advanced by the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee.