Shortly after the advent of print advertising, someone with too much time on his or her hands came up with the idea called bait and switch. It started in the horse trading industry, when buyers arrived to purchase muscular stallions only to find a frail donkeys waiting in the barn. The penalty for bait and switch deception typically involved gunfire or a hanging.
We handle bait and switch scams a little differently in 2017.
Bait and Switch Defined
Classic bait and switch involves a business that advertises a product, but presents or delivers a product not as advertised. Let’s say you have your eyes set on a brand new car that usually costs round $30,000. You find an incredible deal online that has shaved $10,000 off the typical price of the car. However, when you arrive to the dealership, the deal is no longer available because the dealership ran out of stock. Bait and switch tactics historically have flourished in the grocery, restaurant, furniture, and home appliance industries.
Technology has created a new bait and switch monster that does much more than lies about discounted prices. Bait and switch in 2017 often involves complex customer agreements where companies add fine print that makes it easier to climb Mt. Everest than it is to benefit from a product discount or free product feature. Think of the thick user agreements handed out by cell phone providers, as well as the disclaimers at the bottom of print and electronic advertisements
How to Prevent Bait and Switch in 2017
Consumers have just a few strategies to combat bait and switch in 2017. First, you should call a store or shop in advance of your visit to ensure the business has the discounted product in stock. Online queries are a bit tricky, as you do not deal directly with a sales representative. Ask for the name of the sales representative, as well as record the day and time of your phone call. You need the information if you have to take the next step and report the company for its bait and switch scheme to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Consumers in the market for a new or used car should reference the videos uploaded to the FTC website that describe the marketing tactics implemented by car dealerships.
The FTC to the Rescue
The FTC diligently enforces bait and switch laws, but the agency needs consumers to provide accurate and timely information. Whenever you see or hear an advertisement, the laws mandates the advertisement must not mislead consumers in regards to both product features and the price of a product. Considered part of the Truth in Advertising statutes, bait and switch law applies to advertisements that run online, on buses, on billboards, in print and of course, on radio and television. The FTC pays special attention to advertisements that promote products that influence the health of consumers and their bank accounts.
When the FTC discovers a bait and switch scheme, the agency files legal action in a federal district court for the prompt and permanent removal of bait and switch schemes. The goal of the agency is to hit perpetrators hard financially to deter future acts of bait and switch scams. With the Internet taking a bigger slice of the national sales pie, the FTC has established guidelines that protect consumers against bait and switch tactics found online.
For bait and switch cases that pose complications or move too slow through the court system, you should consider contacting a licensed attorney that specializes in consumer protection law. This is especially true of a bait and switch scam that has caused health problems or considerable financial harm.