Hertz class action among latest in rising number of New Jersey TCCWNA cases

By Karen Kidd | Apr 6, 2016

NEWARK, N.J. (Legal Newsline) – The largest car rental company in the U.S. is studying a class action lawsuit filed by a New Jersey man who claims the company’s terms and conditions on its website for rewards program enrollees violate the state's Truth-in-Consumer Contract, Warranty and Notice Act (TCCWNA).

"We are unable to comment at this time, as we only recently received the complaint and are still reviewing it," Anna Bootenhoff, manager of Communications and Public Affairs for The Hertz Corporation, said in an email to Legal Newsline.

This case, filed by a Bergen County, N.J., man is among the latest in what legal observers say is a rising number of TCCWNA cases.

A Hertz Global Holdings Inc. subsidiary, The Hertz Corporation is, by sales, the largest car rental company in the U.S. and operates locations in 150 countries.

In Hecht v. The Hertz Corporation, filed March 16 in U.S. District Court for the District of New Jersey, David Hecht, of Closter, claims the terms and conditions listed on the Hertz website violate TCCWNA because of a failure to state how they affect New Jersey residents. In particular, Hecht's allegations target Hertz's website for enrolling in the car rental company's Gold Plus Rewards Program.

Hecht's lawsuit specifically references a portion of the TCCWNA that states “No consumer contract, notice or sign shall state that any of its provisions is or may be void, unenforceable or inapplicable without specifying which provisions are or are not void, unenforceable or inapplicable within the State of New Jersey.”

That portion and other parts of the statute, first enacted in 1981, have been a favorite with New Jersey federal court plaintiffs of late. Legal observers point to court decisions over the last several years in New Jersey and a growing number of cases that seek to broadly interpret the TCCWNA.

In these cases, plaintiffs claim companies’ website terms and conditions, advertisements, consumer contracts, and other written communications violate the statute. The more recent cases filed in New Jersey federal court, all piling into a developing body of TCCWNA case law, include Russell v. Croscill Home LLC, filed in March, and Darla Braden v. TTI Floor North Am. Inc. d/b/a Hoover, filed in February.

Meanwhile, the state still is tinkering with the TCCWNA. New Jersey Assembly Bill 3141, introduced in February, "Prohibits provisions in consumer contracts which penalize a consumer for commenting negatively about goods or services rendered."

Hecht seeks to represent two classes in his lawsuit. The first class would be those New Jersey residents enrolled in Hertz Gold Plus Rewards when the case was filed. This class also would include New Jersey residents enrolled in the program six years prior to whenever the website's Terms and Conditions stated "in words or substance, that Gold Plus Rewards offers are void where prohibited, without specifying whether these provisions are or are not void, unenforceable or inapplicable within the State of New Jersey.”

The second class proposed by Hecht would be New Jersey residents who rented a Hertz vehicle for personal, household or family purposes via company's website within six years of the date of the filing. That class would cover a period when Hertz’s Terms of Use said “that except as otherwise required by law, price, rate and availability of products or services are subject to change without notice and that the Hertz’ General Terms of Use are void where prohibited, without specifying whether these provisions are void, unenforceable, or inapplicable within the State of New Jersey.”

Hecht seeks the TCCWNA’s mandatory $100 statutory penalty, in addition to attorneys’ fees and costs, for each violation of the statute. With a proposed Class is at least 100, that amount could exceed $5 million.

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