The bait and switch strategy is a morally dubious sales technique that entices clients with particular claims about the quality and low pricing of things that turn out to be untrue and unavailable in order to upsell them on a similar, more expensive item. When a potential consumer is persuaded by an appealing advertising deal, bait and switch occurs. The technique is unethical, and it is prohibited in many jurisdictions.[1]

Bait and switch tactics are popular in businesses such as real estate, restaurants and supermarkets, hotels, and even head-hunters who post appealing but false job offers to collect resumes.[2] False advertising cases will be filed in numerous nations, including the United States, England, and Canada, if this approach is used to entice customers. However, no matter how hard a businessperson attempts to sell a customer a more upscale, more expensive goods, if the buyer is sold the promoted fake product, the consumer has no recourse.

To sum up, the key takeaways of this technique are:

  • The bait and switch tactic are said to take place where and when a customer is enticed and excited about an advertised which seems to be attractive.
  • But the advertised turns out to be fake in terms of specifications and quality when the customer decides to pursue the deal. This is when the customer is offered an upsell, more expensive product by the buyer.
  • Considered illegal in many jurisdictions and also unethical, this still continues to lure customers.

The Bait and Switch ads are a two-part scam. Advertisers gain popularity through the false advertising and make it believable to the customers that it’s a true deal and when the customers call to inquire about the deal, they excite them by calling them to the store as they are close to sell the last lot. But when the customer reaches the store, they bluff that they were too late and missed the deal. This is the perfect opportunity for the buyer where he comes out with a more expensive product and assures the customer that this would be a better choice than the original.[3]

There are numerous examples of the bait and switch tactic but there are also scenarios where this doesn’t apply but is mistaken to be:

  • Pricing error: this is one of the most common complaints which is falsely classified as bait and switch. This is a common error which anyone can commit and it can be easily rectified. Unless it involves false advertising to lure customers to the store, it cannot be blamed on the buyer that they are following an unethical practice.
  • Fewer units available: sometimes it may happen so that the owner really is running low on stock and has very less units of that product left. But the customers might come to the conclusion that the owner is lying and cry “bait and switch”.

These non-bait and switch situations cause inconvenience to both the buyer and seller. So, there are a few precautions and know-it things which the customer can keep in mind and hence avoid falling into this trap and also avoid falsely accusing the owner.

To identify a bait and switch situation, customers can look out for a number of red flags:

  • Owner inquiring about the payment details way too early.
  • Highly discounted products and unbelievable prices.
  • Giving excuses for the advertised products such as running out of stock.
  • Forcing to buy the whole package in order to avail the deal.
  • Poor communication.

Considered illegal and fraudulent in many jurisdictions, this tactic is still at large and a handy tool for the big companies. And it is fooling customers still and they have a right to report the offending party to the relevant authority and seek justice. On the other hand, it is also the responsibility of the customer to be fully aware and need to be suspicious of deals which are too good to be true.

The prevailing scenario of the misleading false advertisements continue to exploit consumers of various age groups. In order to manipulate the customers, the advertising agencies create specific target groups and create advertisements. And even without any actual proof, they manage to convince the customer that this is the best option and lure them into the trap.[4] This is completely unethical and situations as such should be addressed properly and this big game of bait and switch should be put to an end.

Toddlers are lured into by creating advertisements featuring their favourite cartoon character or celebrity which they love and though the nutritional facts featured in the ad are completely false, the children want that drink or snack because they are convinced by the celebrity promoting it. Likewise, cosmetic products are high in the market where the advertisement shows one result but in reality, it is no way close to the actresses or models featured. And next to be addressed are products which are not even certified or branded but they brand themselves in the advertisements. These are done with clear motives of just luring customers in. A classic bait and switch situation.[5]

Laws relating to these must be made stricter and more stringent and relief should be provided with no delay. People should also voice out and raise against such situations and carefully handle one, looking out for the red flags of this as mentioned in the introduction. If people themselves are aware of the scams happening around them and be completely cautious and not get carried away, false advertisement won’t work anymore. But not that the companies and website can publish or advertise their product in such a falsified manner. They must follow ethical norms and respect their customers and gain their confidence and loyalty through true information and not painted ones


Advertising was created to advertise the true essence of the product and not to feed the customers false information. Using these corporate things to exploit customers is completely unethical and should stop altogether. And people who have been victims of such situations must exercise their rights properly and seek relief and not rest until justice has been served. If this situation is going to continue, there might be no consumer satisfaction anymore and it also affects the market simultaneously. The time for change is now and it’s the responsibility of both the customers and companies to bring this to an end.

Author’s Name: Uthra Varadharajan (Symbiosis Law School, Hyderabad)

Image Reference

[1] Rajiv Khare, Pratima Singh Parihar, Misleading Advertisements and Exploitation of Consumers: Is the Law Silent? (2011-2013) 3-5 RMLNLUJ 48.

[2] Bait and Switch, (Merriam Webster), Bait And Switch | Definition of Bait And Switch by Merriam-Webster (last visited June 29, 2021).

[3] K. Puri, Protection against Monopolistic and Unfair Trade Practices in India, (1992) 34 JILI 443.

[4] Robert A. Hillman, Consumer Internet Standard Form Contracts in India: A Proposal, (2017) 29 NLSI Rev 70.

[5] Barbara Bean- Mellinger, Examples of Bait and Switch Advertising, (Chron., Oct 2019), Examples of Bait & Switch Advertising (

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