Florida’s Deceptive And Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA): Bait And Switch Schemes
Passed into law in the 1970s, the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act (FDUTPA) is our state’s counterpart to the Federal Trade Commission Act (FTC Act). The FDUTPA is an effective tool for consumers and businesses that have suffered losses due to deceptive and otherwise unfair commercial practices.
In applying the state law, Florida courts have referred to the definition of a deceptive act in the FTC Act: A representation or business practice that “misleads or is likely to mislead” may be a violation of Florida law. Here, our Miami deceptive & unfair trade practices lawyers discuss one of the most common examples of an FDUTPA violation: Bait and switch sales tactics.
What is a Bait and Switch?
In a bait and switch scheme, a customer is “baited” with an enticing offer only to be “switched” into an unfavorable offer later on in the transaction. The schemes come in a wide variety of different forms and they can involve both products and services. Bait and switch scams remain one of the most common of business and consumer fraud reported in Florida.
As a simple example, a bad-acting retail business could try to bait and switch customers by advertising large discounts on products that it does not actually have in stock at the moment. When potential customers then arrive at the store, the business could explain that they “just ran out” of the product on sale and try to upsell the customers into a far less favorable purchase.
When Does a Bait and Switch Act Violate the FDUTPA?
A bait and switch scam may violate the Florida Deceptive and Unfair Trade Practices Act. Whether or not a specific scheme constitutes an FDUTPA violation will always depend on the circumstances of the case. Most importantly, any material misrepresentations or material omissions made by the business will be considered. A useful example of how bait and switch schemes are handled under the FDUTPA comes from the 1994 case of Department of Legal Affairs v. Father and Son Moving & Storage.
In that case, the moving and storage company engaged in a practice of giving “low ball” estimates to consumers to entice them to use their services. Extra fees were then added on at the end of the process. Customers were not permitted to get their belongings back unless they paid the higher price. A Florida court ruled that the moving company engaged in a deceptive and unfair bait and switch under the FDUTPA finding that they intentionally misled consumers to extract a higher price.
Get Help From a Fraud Attorney in South Florida
At Pike & Lustig, LLP, our Miami FDUTPA lawyers are skilled, resourceful advocates for people and companies. If you have any specific questions about bait and switch claims, we are more than happy to help. Give us a call today to get an immediate evaluation of your case. With legal offices located in Miami and West Palm Beach, our firm is well-positioned to serve clients throughout South Florida.