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I understand that bait and switch is a fraudulent marketing technique in which one 'bait' product is advertised at a certain price, then after the consumer is drawn in they are instead offered a similar product at a higher price. I'm wondering if the term 'bait and switch' also applies to switches made after purchase, or if there is a different term for it? I'm assuming it's just as illegal under consumer law, but if the law is different please clarify.

For example:

  • customer signs up for a 12 month tv contract offering channels X, Y and Z. Before the contract runs out, the contract is modified to only offer channels X and Y, for the same price. Channel Z can be purchased for an additional fee, but this is optional.
  • customer purchases a premium item within a game which offers some bonus. At some point after purchase the item is modified to give a smaller bonus. No partial refund or compensation is offered.

In both examples the consumer initially gets what they originally paid for, and it is only some time later that the product is modified to be something less than what they were originally offered, but they are not offered any kind of compensation or partial refund to account for the difference.

If the company includes a clause in their contract saying they reserve the right to make such changes without offering refund or compensation, would that make these tactics legal? What are the company's legal obligations in these examples?

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The terminology is not particularly relevant, since laws promulgated to outlaw "bait and switch" refer to it in broader terms such as "unfair / deceptive practices". If you have a contract entitling you to X,Y,Z for 12 months in exchange for $N, and they change the terms so that you now need to pay extra for Z, that would be breach of contract (which has been illegal for as long as there has been business). Most likely, the change was legal, and you only thought you had a contract entitling you to X,Y,Z for 12 months in exchange for $N. There could be an obscure clause saying that the range of stuff that you can access is subject to change, or something similar. If you really do have a contract entitling you to X,Y,Z for 12 months in exchange for $N, then the can't unilaterally change the terms, anymore that you can unilaterally reduce the price.

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