Murphy signs laws to protect NJ consumers from financial predators

New Jersey consumers will benefit from greater protection against predatory financial practices in the tax preparation and service industries under a package of bills the governor signed Friday. Phil Murphy.

The new laws, all sponsored by Democrats, include requirements for tax preparers and providers of service contracts, while strengthening New Jersey’s antitrust laws and extending protection to indirect purchasers like municipalities or the government of the state.

“New Jersey consumers are the heart of our state’s economy and it is imperative that we protect them from those who seek to target their finances,” Murphy said in a statement. “These bills will set new standards for financial service providers to meet, giving our consumers the protection they need against certain deceptive actors.

Under one of the bills (S891), New Jersey tax preparers will be prohibited from requiring consumers to enter into prepayment audit agreements in order to file a tax return.

It usually takes three to six weeks to get a refund from the IRS after filing. Refund anticipation checks and loans allow taxpayers to get their money sooner through an agreement with a tax preparer, but these agreements often come with surprise fees that are deducted from the taxpayers refund.

The new law requires tax preparers to disclose all service charges and fees associated with refund anticipation checks and prohibits tax preparation services from advertising such arrangements as free if the service incurs a higher fee. or additional.

State Sen. Nellie Pou, D-Passaic, one of the bill’s lead sponsors, said it places a responsibility on tax preparers to fully explain refund anticipation services and prohibits them to demand these agreements.

“The tax filing season represents a chance for relief for Americans who may be struggling to balance their household budgets,” Pou said in a statement. “While these refunds provide a well-timed boost for many families, the filing process can be difficult to navigate, and low-income families who need help may find themselves at risk of child protection. consumers when working with tax preparation services.”

The new law, accompanied by a second measure (S902) which imposes consumer protection requirements on service providers, are particularly important for socially vulnerable communities, “including people with low or moderate incomes and limited English proficiency and people of color, who are often targeted by bad actors in the financial and service sectors,” the officials said.

A third piece of legislation signed on Friday (S901) also makes it easier for the New Jersey Consumer Affairs Division and the state Attorney General to take action against companies that violate consumer protection laws.

The new law requires parties to private consumer fraud suits to notify the attorney general’s office within 24 hours of filing, and it amends New Jersey’s antitrust law to allow indirect purchasers like municipalities and the State to collect damages for violations of antitrust laws.

New Jersey Acting Attorney General Matthew Platkin said the package of laws highlights “the Murphy administration’s commitment to defending our state’s residents, especially those most vulnerable to deceptive marketing practices.”

“These laws provide us with more legal tools to hold accountable those who seek to take advantage of consumers in our state,” Platkin said in a statement. “And make no mistake, we will hold you accountable under the law.”

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Derek Room can be attached to [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @dereknhall.

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