NEWARK - On Wednesday, the Appellate Division of the New Jersey Superior Court upheld a Decision and Order of the Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs, which found a used car dealership had violated the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act by failing to post selling prices on or near its used vehicles.
On April 10, 2008, as part of its Used Car Task Force, investigators from the Division of Consumer Affairs inspected J.D. Byrider, also known as Johnny Popper, Inc. and Fisher’s Fine Automobiles, located at 342 South Whitehorse Pike in Clementon, New Jersey. Investigators found that J.D. Byrider had no prices posted on any of the 34 used vehicles it offered for sale. In fact, no prices were posted anywhere in the outdoor lot where the vehicles were offered for sale.
J.D. Byrider contested the Notice of Violation by requesting a hearing. At the hearing, J.D. Byrider argued that posting a price list for vehicles inside its sales office satisfied N.J.S.A. 56:8-2.5, which requires the posting of prices either on the merchandise or “at the point where the merchandise is offered for sale.” The Division of Consumer Affairs, in contrast, argued that the language of the statute should be interpreted to require the posting of prices either on the vehicles or near them.
The Director agreed with the interpretation advanced by the Division, finding J.D. Byrider had violated N.J.S.A. 56:8-2.5, and awarded $5,425 in civil penalties and reimbursement of investigative costs and attorneys’ fees.
J.D. Byrider appealed the Director’s Final Decision and Order to the Appellate Division, again arguing that posting prices inside its sales office satisfied the requirements of N.J.S.A. 56:8-2.5.
The Appellate Division rejected that argument and upheld the Director’s Final Decision and Order.
The Court stated: Having prices posted on vehicles “would facilitate the desirable practice of comparison shopping by consumers without the need to interact with salespersons if the consumer so wishes.”
“This decision is a major victory for consumers,” Attorney General Paula T. Dow said. “Consumers need to know product pricing in order to make informed purchasing decisions and this ruling affirms the requirement to have the sales price on or near any used vehicle offered for sale.”
Many consumers are buying used vehicles rather than new cars and trucks because of current economic conditions, noted Thomas R. Calcagni, Acting Director of the Division of Consumer Affairs.
“Prices need to be posted where items are offered for sale, which is where the consumer finds them, not at the place where the buying transaction is concluded,” Calcagni said. “This is especially true when someone potentially is spending thousands of dollars on a used vehicle.”
Deputy Attorney General Nicholas Kant of the Consumer Fraud Prosecution Section, represented the Division before both the Director and the Appellate Division.