Civil Litigation Lawyers in Columbus, OH, Discuss Bait and Switch Sales Practices
Bait and switch is as infuriating as it is common. Not being able to buy something at an advertised sale price or being informed that you are expected to pay a higher price for something you never requested can evoke responses ranging from annoyance to rage. Such unscrupulous business practices can also be illegal, leaving companies and salespeople open to civil lawsuits.
Succeeding in holding a store or service provider to their word requires knowing the relevant federal and state consumer protection laws, as well as understanding when a business has crossed the line between using hardnosed bargaining techniques and violating customers’ rights under explicit and implied contracts. Columbus-based false advertising attorneys with Leist Warner possess that knowledge and have represented numerous clients who found the only way to get their money back or to receive the goods and services they requested was to go to court.
Defining ‘Bait Advertising’
The Federal Trade Commission and Ohio’s attorney general share responsibility for enforcing laws against bait and switch. Each defines the practice as involving deceptive advertising, with the FTC writing in its Guides Against Bait Advertising that it consists of:
[A]n alluring but insincere offer to sell a product or service which the advertiser in truth does not intend or want to sell. Its purpose is to switch consumers from buying the advertised merchandise, in order to sell something else, usually at a higher price or on a basis more advantageous to the advertiser. The primary aim of a bait advertisement is to obtain leads as to persons interested in buying merchandise of the type so advertised.
The key to understanding this definition lies in recognizing that even a TV ad or radio spot creates a contract between the advertiser and a consumer. If a person learns that a specific product or service has been offered at a particular price, he or she has a legally enforceable expectation of being able to purchase it at the advertised amount. That contract becomes even more binding when a purchase agreement exists in writing, such as when a home contractor, lender, or auto shop provides a written estimate or summary of cost/fees, time to completion, and nature of materials and services.
Ohio law, specifically Ohio Administrative Code § 109:4-3-03 Bait Advertising/Unavailability of Goods, draws the definition even more finely, listing these and other advertising and sales tactics as being illegal precisely because they are deceptive and unfair:
- Making a statement or showing a picture that “would create in the mind of a reasonable consumer a false impression as to the grade, quality, quantity, make, model, year, price, value, size, color, utility, origin or any other material aspect of the offered goods or services;”
- Delivering goods or services that differ significantly from those advertised;
- Penalizing employees for selling goods or services exactly as advertised or promised;
- Failing to stock advertised items;
- Failing to disclose limits on availability;
- Refusing to issue rainchecks when supplies run out;
- Refusing to honor a raincheck redeemed in a timely manner;
- Pressuring customers to pay for one thing then accept something else; and
- Forcing customers to purchase something else for the sole purpose of receiving a requested product or service.
Ask a Columbus, Ohio, Consumer Law Attorney for Help Fighting Bait and Switch
You do not have to accept bait and switch as a risk of doing business. If a store, contractor, or salesperson has failed to honor advertised or contracted prices, tried to bully you into taking delivery of things you never wanted, or refused to keep verbal or written promises, contact a lawyer at Leist Warner by calling (614) 222-1000 or completing the contact form on the law firm’s website. An initial consultation concerning your possible consumer protection case will cost you nothing, and we may discover that you are entitled to seek reimbursements and compensation for monetary damages.