NJ Moving to Hold Professionals Accountable for Ad Statements

New Jersey’s legislature has taken steps toward ensuring that licensed professionals, including accountants, can be sued for false claims made in their advertising.

According to the Courier Post in Trenton, the Senate Commerce Committee passed a bill that would hold anyone who has a professional or occupational license, a certificate of registration or a certification issued or renewed by a board. Professionals such as accountants, architects, doctors, lawyers, morticians, veterinarians and social workers accountable for false claims made in their advertisements. Media outlets conveying the advertisement would have no liability.

A similar bill has already passed in the state’s Assembly, which paves the way for a vote by both houses.

Last month the New Jersey State Supreme Court ruled that consumers can’t sue doctors for false claims they make in ads because the Consumer Fraud Act did not apply to "learned professionals," the Courier Post reported. The court’s ruling came from a class action suit brought against a Bergenfield eye doctor who was performing laser eye surgery on sports players even though his license was suspended for numerous violations.

Sen. Tom Kean Jr., R-Westfield, sponsor of the bill, told the Courier Post that the legislation tries to "overcome the interpretation of the court" by expanding the act to licensed professionals. "Deceptive advertising is often perpetrated against the most vulnerable citizens in our state," Kean said. "We need to ensure that there are strict, meaningful penalties against any commercial entity that commits this crime."

There is bipartisan support for the measure. "There's no reason why a person of a licensed profession should get a pass and be exempt," said Sen. Byron Baer, D-Bergen, chairman of the committee.

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