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To: Members of the Assembly Consumer Affairs Committee
From: Jennifer Kim, NJPIRG State Director
Re: Support for ACR146
Thank you committee members for the opportunity to speak in support of ACR146. Special thanks to Chairman Moriarty as well as Assemblymen Eustace and Benson for sponsoring this resolution.
My name is Jennifer Kim with NJPIRG, the New Jersey Public Interest Research Group. Since 1972 NJPIRG has been advocating for consumers across the state, standing up for public health, a fair democracy, and good government. We represent thousands of citizen members across the state and have worked on many consumer protections that the Division of Consumer Affairs has diligently enforced over the years on matters ranging from identity theft to the Lemon Law.
The waiver recently adopted by the Division of Consumer Affairs is a dangerous threat to all consumers. We are concerned that the intent of the waiver is inconsistent with the very mission of the DCA and will undermine important consumer protections.
1. The waiver would grant the DCA power outside the scope of an executive agency.
We are concerned that this waiver will grant the DCA, an executive branch agency, unprecedented power to unilaterally ignore laws passed by a majority in the state legislature. These laws reflect the will of the people, and it is not the executive’s place to disregard that will.
2. The waiver would grant the DCA power outside of its mission.
As stated in its mission, the DCA serves to “protect the public from fraud, deceit and misrepresentation in the sale of goods and services.” Determining which rules or requirements are “unfair or incongruous or would endanger the health, safety and welfare of the public” (as outlined in the waiver) to potentially exempt businesses from them, second-guesses the legislature and is outside of the DCA’s purview. The DCA plays an extremely important role in New Jersey as an enforcer of existing consumer protections, not judging their propriety.
3. The waiver prioritizes business interests over protecting the public.
Consumer protection rules and regulations exist to protect the public and may inherently impose a burden on businesses. Whether it is a large or small burden, the Division of Consumer Affairs role is to prioritize the consumer interest over the business interest.
4. The waiver enables offenders to escape without paying damages.
Regarding the issue of compliance with rules versus imposing penalties, we do not oppose such a system as long as the alternative measures are more likely to encourage the person to comply with the agency’s rules and the alternatives measures do not avoid the payment of any damages caused by the offender.
We recognize that from time to time certain rules and regulations with good goals do not always have their intended effect and it is right to reexamine them, one by one. However, this waiver would open the door for numerous consumer abuses and should be eliminated.
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