The plaintiff in this case, Bosland, alleged that when she purchased a new car from defendant, Warnock Dodge, she was overcharged between $20 and $40 for a documentary service fee that was neither disclosed nor itemized, contrary to law. Instead of requesting a refund, Bosland filed a class action suit seeking relief under the Consumer Fraud Act (CFA) for herself and similarly situated persons. The trial court dismissed the case, but the appellate court reversed, allowing the case to move forward.
The New Jersey Supreme Court granted Warnock Dodge’s petition for certification in order to decide whether an attempt to obtain a refund from a merchant is an essential prerequisite for a CFA claim. NJCJI filed an amicus curiae brief arguing that opening the court to cases where no private problem solving has been attempted would create a perverse incentive system whereby the courts would become a first rather than last resort for consumers.
The court looked to the legislative history of the CFA and determined that the legislature intended to provide broad consumer protections and remove barriers to court access. Viewing the statutory language in that light, the court held that the CFA does not require potential plaintiffs to seek a refund before filing a legal complaint. The case was remanded for further proceedings.