Bait and switch advertising is a violation of consumer laws. It is a type of fraudulent business practice where one party, such as a manufacturer or business, will offer the “bait”. This could be a product that is advertised at a very low cost and is designed to lure in a customer. Once the customer is attracted, the manufacturer will pull the “switch”. The proposed product will no longer be available at the advertised price, but instead it will be offered at a much higher price or an altogether different product will be offered.
The purpose of the bait and switch is to convince the consumer to pay much more money than was originally planned. The idea is that the seller has already drawn the customer in with the bait and will now be free to switch the product without losing the customer.
Consumer laws will allow an aggrieved party to sue for damages if they are the victim of a bait and switch. A competing business may also be able to take action in court against individuals who practice the bait and switch. Consumer laws will hold this fraudulent business liable for false advertising, or possibly for trademark infringement.
If the original business is losing profits due to this fraudulent practice, then it may have grounds to sue. However, consumer laws will only allow for another business to take action if the accused business is actually engaging in a bait and switch practice. If the business is legitimately able to offer the product at a considerably lower price, then they will not be liable for any damages to competing businesses.
The accused party may be able to avoid liability if the business can prove that there was language within the advertisement that did not guarantee it to the consumer. For example, if the advertisement makes it clear that this offer is only available for a short time, then the business will most likely not be held liable for damages.
Consumer laws consider the bait and switch to be fraudulent because the manufacturer is advertising a product that it does not actually intend to sell at that price or quality. If consumers falls victim to the bait and switch, they will not receive the actual product that they desired.
They will most likely receive a higher priced product. Consumer laws mandate that no advertisement should propose to sell an item that it does not actually intend to distribute at the advertised price or quality.