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Know Your Rights

There are many statutes (laws) which protect consumers.

The N.J. Consumer Fraud Act prohibits misrepresentation, deception, fraud, unconscionable commercial practices and the knowing omission of material facts. If the consumer proves a fraud and an ascertainable loss, the consumer should be awarded triple damages. If successful in the suit, the attorney for the consumer is awarded an attorney fee, to be paid by the party who committed the consumer fraud. For the text of the Consumer Fraud Act, see:

For Regulations adopted by the N.J. Division of Consumer Affairs, see


The N.J. Criminal Usury law, N.J.S.A. 2C:21-19, sets a maximum 30 percent interest rate for many loans, credit sales and rent to own transactions in New Jersey. The usury laws were the first consumer protection laws. New Jersey had such a law before the American Revolution.

The U.S. Fair Credit Reporting Act, 15 U.S.C. § 1681, is a very long law. Here are a few things to remember:

            You have the right to see what is contained in any credit report about you.

            You have the right to complain about items in the report which are not accurate.

            In general, negative items remain in your file for seven years, bankruptcy filing for ten years.

            You have the right to insert 100 words to explain a negative item.

            If a credit bureau refuses to remove information which is not accurate, see a consumer attorney to see if there are grounds to sue under the Fair Credit Reporting Act.

The U.S. Fair Debt Collection Practices Act, 15 U.S.C. 1692, regulates the actions of debt collection agencies, collection attorneys and debt-buying companies whose principal purpose is the collection of defaulted debts. The Act does not apply to original creditors such as credit-card banks.

The FDCPA prohibits debt collections from engaging in many disreputable practices, such as overstating the amount of a debt, or suing on a debt when the deadline for suing has passed.  If you think you have been wronged by a debt collector, we suggest that you consult a consumer attorney with experience in Fair Debt Collection Practices suit. If the FDCPA is violated, a consumer may be awarded actual damages, plus up to $1,000. The consumer attorney may be awarded an attorneys fee to be paid by the debt collector.

The Truth in Lending Act, 15 U.S.C. 1601 et seq. specifies  the numerical disclosures which consumers must receive when you borrow money, take out a credit card, buy or lease an auto. There are statutory penalties and attorneys fees possible if this law is violated.

The U.S. Bankruptcy Code, 11 U.S.C. 101 et seq., protects consumers who have overwhelming debt problems. Chapter 7 leads to discharge (forgiveness) of debts. Chapter 13 is a payment plan, often used by homeowners who are facing foreclosure (loss of home), who want a second chance to pay their mortgage debts. Be sure to file before Sheriff Sale!

Please NOTE:  these are very brief summaries. The laws themselves are available on the Internet and in paper form at the law library of your County Courthouse. CLNJ recommends that individuals consult with experienced consumer attorneys to see whether the facts of your case fit into one of these statutes. There are too many statutes for CLNJ to list them all.

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