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Deceptive Marketing

False Discount & Deceptive Pricing

Deceptive pricing -- sometimes called "bait and switch advertising" -- can be illegal under false advertising laws. Here’s how it often works. A company advertises something that is an unusually good deal. For example, a low mortgage rate, a favorable warranty, or a low price. Then, when consumers attempt to buy the product, the company tries to sell them something more expensive or of lower quality.

Car dealers sometimes use bait and switch advertising. A car dealer might advertise a specific car for a very attractive price. But when the consumer goes to the dealership and asks to see the car, the salesperson refuses to show it, and instead offers other cars or deals. As long as the dealer didn’t already sell the car for the advertised price, that is bait and switch advertising. The consumer who tried to buy the car may be entitled to monetary damages.

If you have tried to buy a product at its advertised price, but the company has refused to sell it to you, you may be eligible to participate in a lawsuit. Contact our consumer protection lawyers to find out.

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False Discount and Deceptive Pricing Details

Suppose you see an advertisement for a great TV at a very low price. It may be deceptive pricing if, when you go to the store to buy the TV:

  • It costs much more than what the advertisement stated;
  • The store says it’s the same TV, but it’s a knockoff version; or
  • The TV isn’t for sale at all.

However, not all shady business tactics are illegal. Using the same TV example, here are some scenarios that generally cannot be remedied by a lawsuit:

  • If the advertisement said that there are only 20 TVs available for the low price, it is not illegal for the store to charge a higher price for the same TVs after the first 20 are sold.
  • If there is simply a typo in an advertisement -- usually an online ad -- the store may cancel your order.
  • If the advertisement is technically correct, even though it’s misleading, it may be legal. For example, the advertisement might say "not valid in all stores" or "online pricing only."

Examples of False Discounts and Deceptive Pricing

The following are examples of false discounts or bait and switch advertising that may be illegal:

  • A mortgage lender may advertise extremely low mortgage rates, knowing that applicants will not qualify for those rates. After a customer applies, the company will only offer higher rates.
  • An insurer may enroll a customer at a low premium, and then later increase that premium without telling the customer.
  • A timeshare company may add fees and charges that were not disclosed in the contract.

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