Legislation aimed at helping New Jersey consumers get instant rebates continues to advance in the state Assembly.
The measure passed Thursday by the Consumer Affairs committee requires retailers to charge consumers an advertised after-rebate price, rather than making them send in coupons or log on to manufacturer's websites to claim their savings.
It now heads to the full Assembly for a vote, which has not yet been scheduled.
"Customers should not be deceptively lured into stores by low prices that only exist after they take the product home, cut apart the packaging, fill out aggravating paperwork and then wait weeks or months for a check," said Assemblyman John Burzichelli, D-Paulsboro.
Under the legislation, retailers that advertise a product's "net price" — the cost after a manufacturer's rebate is applied — would be required to charge that price at the time of sale.
It then would be a retailer's responsibility to complete the rebate redemption process.
If the measure becomes law, New Jersey would become the third state to enforce such a consumer protection, joining Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Violators would be cited under the state's consumer fraud act, with first offenders facing fines of up to $10,000. Repeat offenses could face up to $20,000 in fines, as well as injunctive relief, triple damages, and restitution.
Burzichelli is sponsoring the measure with Peter Biondi, R-Somerset, and Democrats Paul Moriarty of Turnersville, Vincent Prieto of Secaucus and John Wisniewski of Sayreville. They cite research by consumer advocates which shows about 40 percent of manufacturer rebates are never redeemed, costing American consumers more than $2 billion annually.
"This bill would not prevent manufacturers from offering rebates to New Jersey consumers, but would only prohibit stores from deceptively passing off a net price to unwitting customers," Prieto said. "It's a consumer protection measure that makes common sense."