Standing up for New Jerseyans

Standing up for New Jerseyans

Standing Up for New Jerseyans

New Jerseyans should be able to trust that when they purchase goods and services they are being treated fairly and receiving those that they have been promised. Attorney General Platkin, DCA, and agencies across the Department are committed to helping New Jersey consumers and ensuring that unscrupulous businesses and scammers are held accountable.

Resolving the Waterfront litigation. A unanimous, 9-0 victory at the United States Supreme Court affirmed New Jersey’s authority to withdraw from the waterfront Commission Compact of 1953, which paved the way for the State’s takeover of New Jersey operations at the port in July 2023.

Upholding workers’ rights. Together with the Department of Labor, in December Attorney General Platkin filed the first lawsuit under a 2021 law that permits the State to bring an action against employers who have misclassified workers as independent contractors when they are, in fact, employees. Our complaint against shipping and logistics companies STG Logistics, Inc., and STG Drayage, LLC, seeks to halt the companies’ alleged practice of misclassifying drivers as independent contractors, and to recover up to millions of dollars in back wages, penalties and fines, and back wages for more than 300 truck drivers. It also seeks damages for the companies’ alleged improper deductions from drivers’ pay. These practices not only resulted in the companies at times paying truck drivers less than New Jersey’s effective minimum wage; the deductions sometimes exceeded a driver’s entire gross pay, and resulted in a negative net pay during some pay periods.

Protecting investors and the public from fraud. Protecting cosmetology students from fraud. Attorney General Platkin and DCA reached a settlement with a now-defunct New Jersey cosmetology school, Capri Institute of Hair Design (Capri), and its related entities. They will pay nearly $640,000 – a majority of which will be used for consumer restitution – to resolve the State’s lawsuit alleging they defrauded students and engaged in substandard business practices that financially harmed students. In a separate settlement with the State Board of Cosmetology and Hairstyling, the school also agreed to surrender its licenses to operate in New Jersey. Capri abruptly shut down operations in December 2021 with less than 48 hours prior notice to its roughly 250 enrolled students. The investigation found that in the weeks following the shutdown, the school allegedly refused to respond to students’ questions about the closure and allegedly refused to provide students with their official transcripts or tuition refunds, making it virtually impossible for them to transfer to another cosmetology school.

Standing Up for New Jerseyans

Standing up for homeowners. Attorney General Platkin and DCA reached a $442,000 settlement with a South Jersey home improvement contractor who agreed to dissolve his business and pay $257,000 in consumer restitution. The settlement resolves the State’s lawsuit filed last fall alleging that South Jersey Home Contracting, LLC and its owner engaged in unlawful business practices, including against senior citizens, in violation of the Consumer Fraud Act, the Contractor Registration Act, and the Regulations Governing Home Improvement Practices.

Holding companies accountable for privacy violations.

Protecting personal information. New Jersey entered into an overall $6.5 million multistate settlement with Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, LLC (Morgan Stanley) that resolves the states’ investigation into two data security incidents that compromised the personal information of more than 3.37 million individuals nationwide, including 755,592 New Jersey residents. Allegedly precipitated by Morgan Stanley’s hiring of outside vendors that improperly decommissioned thousands of electronic devices in 2016 and 2019, the data security incidents resulted in unauthorized third parties having the ability to access devices containing customers’ personal information – including names, addresses, phone numbers, account names, and numbers for Morgan Stanley accounts. The third parties also had access to customers’ linked bank accounts, Social Security numbers, birthdates, asset values, holdings data, and securities transaction information. Under an Assurance of Voluntary Compliance filed with DCA, New Jersey is to receive approximately $1.27 million of the overall Morgan Stanley settlement payout.

Holding companies accountable for data security deficiencies. Attorney General Platkin, along with 49 other Attorneys General, reached a settlement with software company Blackbaud for its deficient data security practices and inadequate response to a 2020 ransomware event that exposed the personal information of millions of consumers across the United States. Under the settlement, Blackbaud has agreed to overhaul its data security and breach notification practices and make a $49.5 million payment to states. Of that amount, New Jersey will receive $1,083,802. In a joint agreement with several other states, an overall $2.5-million settlement with EyeMed Vision Care (EyeMed) resolved an investigation into a data breach that compromised the personal and medical information of approximately 2.1 million people, including more than 52,000 from New Jersey. The multistate investigation found deficiencies in EyeMed’s data security program that contributed to the breach in violation of state consumer protection and personal information protection laws and the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.

Continued Efforts to Protect Consumers

Cracking down on pricing violations. Dollar General Corp., a national discount retail chain with 186 stores in New Jersey, has agreed to pay $1.2 million to resolve allegations by the Division’s Office of Weights and Measures (OWM) that the chain repeatedly engaged in merchandise pricing violations at several retail stores across the state. The settlement, which includes a $1.18 million civil penalty, is the largest ever obtained by OWM. According to the State’s allegations, the Tennessee-based retailer violated New Jersey’s Consumer Fraud Act and Weights and Measures Act by selling a variety of merchandise that scanned at the cash register for higher prices than were posted where the merchandise was displayed for sale. OWM pricing inspections of 58 New Jersey stores in November 2022 and February 2023 found more than 2,000 instances in which the price charged at the register for a particular product was higher than the posted price, in some cases as much as $5.95 higher.

Going after unlicensed practitioners. Continuing the State’s efforts to halt the unlicensed practice of medicine in spa-like settings, Attorney General Platkin and DCA announced that a licensed cosmetologist and skincare specialist in Union County must pay $22,500 in civil penalties for allegedly performing invasive aesthetic treatments that only licensed medical professionals are authorized to perform in New Jersey.

Addressing Problem Gambling

Developing new tools to assist gamblers. The Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE) expanded its reach for individuals needing assistance with problem gambling. DGE established a dedicated hotline for inquiries about the self-exclusion process and added a virtual option to self-exclude from gaming activities. Gamblers seeking to exclude themselves from wagering in New Jersey can now contact DGE via a new, dedicated, toll-free phone number, 1-833-788-4DGE, to learn about and initiate the self-exclusion process. They can utilize that helpline to set up an in-person appointment with specially trained DGE staff or to take advantage of a new service, a video conference with DGE responsible gaming personnel.

Helping at-risk gaming patrons. In 2023, DGE launched a new, groundbreaking Responsible Gaming Initiative to identify and help problem gamblers by utilizing information already collected by online gaming operators about their patrons’ playing habits. As part of the Initiative, DGE works with online gambling operators to use technology to identify at-risk patrons and intervene. Operators of gambling platforms are now be required to analyze electronically maintained player data to determine whether a patron is showing signs of problem gambling behavior.

Releasing a report on the prevalence of gambling in New Jersey. A report, funded by DGE and prepared by a team of researchers at the Rutgers University School of Social Work, Center for Gambling Studies, looked at the prevalence of gambling in the Garden State. The report, titled “The Prevalence of Online and Land-Based Gambling in New Jersey,” was published in 2023 and is a follow-up study to one issued in 2017. The report’s release coincided with Responsible Gaming Education Month, which focused on supporting research efforts that can help inform policies, procedures, and best practices for minimizing problem gambling risks.

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