Ohio Consumer Law Blog

Information on Ohio's Consumer Laws from Attorney Daniel Myers, Myers Law, LLC, not legal advice

Don’t be a Fish Caught by a Bait-and-Switch!

Many of us have fallen victim to bait-and-switch advertising at one time or another. In a classic bait-and-switch, a company advertises one product or service, but when you show up to buy, they give you an inferior, cheap, or poor quality good or service instead of what was promised.  They usually have that item you were looking for, but it’s much more expensive than what their advertisement claimed, or they try to sell you on something else entirely.  They had no intention of ever selling you the item or service as advertised. 

Sellers often “bait” through media advertisements. Ohio’s Consumer Sales Practices Act (“CSPA”) protects consumers from being victimized by “switch” techniques sellers use before, during, or after entering into a deal.  This law protects you not only bait-and-switch product sales, but also from entering into bait-and-switch service contracts.  The CSPA requires sellers to honestly and accurately represent a service’s characteristics to you and makes it illegal for them to misrepresent the product, service, or agreement terms to bait you into signing the contract or making the purchase.

One example where bait and switch can arise is a prepaid service contract.  You have seen this kind of contract if you have signed up for a gym or spa membership.  You might have thought you were getting a “two for one” deal, thinking a friend or spouse can use the services with you.  If the seller later decides you cannot bring your friend or limits the contract to only your spouse, then seller may have violated the CSPA.    

A friend of mine recently told me that she experienced a bait and switch in a service contract advertisement.  She was lucky because it happened before she entered the contract.  According to her, a popular gym sent flyers to area residents, advertising inexpensive gym memberships.  After she showed up to the gym and sat for a half hour waiting to speak with the manager, the deal offered to her was not for a full gym membership at the advertised price; instead, the advertised price was a deal to use the gym only on Fridays, and only if she signed a three year contract.  These sorts of limitations need to be made clear in the advertisement, but they were not.

You have to be on the lookout for bait-and-switch tactics to protect yourself before a problem starts. Remember that sellers use bait-and-switch to sell not only products, but also to get you to sign up for services.  If you think a seller used an illegal bait and switch to get you to sign a contract, there are a few things you should do:

  1. Just Say No.  If you get a bad feeling about something, trust that feeling.  Do not get caught up in a bait-and-switch.  If you do get caught up (it happens to all of us at some point), you want to make sure that you…
  2. Keep all of your paperwork and documents.  Do not throw away any of the paperwork, advertisements, contracts, the seller’s contact information, or anything else relating to the situation.  You will need all of this when you…
  3. Contact a lawyer.  You might be entitled to triple your actual damages, cancellation of the contract, or other remedies, including having your attorney fees paid by the seller.  You may also be entitled to a minimum of $200 in damages even if you did not go through with the sale.  However, it is not possible, and sometimes it is not practical, to sue for every violation of this law.  Ohio’s CSPA does not protect you from potential bait and switch transactions by utility or insurance companies.  Also, it may not make sense for you to spend countless hours to get $20 or $200 from a company.  An experience consumer lawyer can advise you about the law and practicality of your options.

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This entry was posted on August 19, 2013 by in By Daniel Myers, Uncategorized.


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