By: Kathryn Davis


The action, which is generally illegal, of advertising goods that are an apparent bargain, with the intention of substituting inferior or more expensive goods.

Result of Bait-and-Switch

When a seller uses this tactic, they frequently tell the customer that the original product is sold out or no longer available, even if the product is actually still available, and they push for the customer to buy a more expensive product. This tactic can be considered false advertising if the seller is not actually providing the original product, but if the item is available but the seller strongly urges the customer to buy a different item, generally no legal action can be taken.


The San Francisco County Superior Court filed a law suit on Dell on Feb. 14, 2005 seeking class action status in California and accused Dell of "bait and switch" practices, false advertising, fraud and deceit in sales and advertising, and breach of contract. The case centered on the allegation that Dell advertised low prices for its computers, but people who tried to purchase a machine at the advertised price find it was no longer available for that price.

One plaintiff was a San Francisco nurse who said she bought a Dell notebook computer listed at $599 along with an $89 printer, but was billed $1,352 for her order.

The suit also said that Dell and its lending partner CIT Bank changed without notice financing packages promoted as "easy" and "preferred," to include much higher interest rates and hidden charges.