Bait and switch selling

What Is the Competition Bureau?

The Competition Bureau is an independent law enforcement agency responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Competition Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, the Textile Labelling Act and the Precious Metals Marking Act. Its role is to promote and maintain fair competition so that Canadians can benefit from competitive prices, product choice and quality services. Headed by the Commissioner of Competition, the organization investigates anti-competitive practices and promotes compliance with the laws under its jurisdiction.

What Is the Competition Act?

The Competition Act is a federal law governing most business conduct in Canada. It contains both criminal and civil provisions aimed at preventing anti-competitive practices in the marketplace.

Bait and switch selling

Bait and Switch Selling

Under the Competition Act, retailers are prohibited from advertising products at bargain prices that they do not have available in reasonable quantities.

Liability will be avoided where the advertiser can establish that the non-availability of the product was due to circumstances beyond its control, the quantity of the product obtained was reasonable, or the customer was offered a rain check when supplies were exhausted.

Retailers who contravene the law may be ordered by a court to stop the conduct, to publish a corrective notice, and/or to pay an administrative monetary penalty.

For more information on bait and switch selling, please visit or contact the Competition Bureau through any of the methods listed at the end of this pamphlet.

How bait and switch selling affects you as a consumer

You are attracted to a store by an advertisement for a bargain-priced product. Once inside, you discover that the product that was advertised, the "bait," is sold out or otherwise not available. The switch occurs when a salesperson pressures you into purchasing a higher priced item as a replacement, or if you find yourself induced to make other purchases while inside the store. In both cases, the retailer successfully captures your shopping dollars by luring you to the store with an advertised bargain that was never intended to be made available in reasonable quantities.

How bait and switch selling affects you as a competitor

Bait and switch selling is anti-competitive. By advertising products at bargain prices that are not available in reasonable quantities, retailers can unfairly lure consumers into their stores, thereby taking business away from honest retailers. As a competitor, your loyal customer base may begin to slip away, and new customers may not consider entering your store.

How Do I File a Complaint?

If you believe that someone has in some way contravened any of the legislation enforced and administered by the Bureau and you want to complain, you can telephone, fax, e-mail or write the Bureau at the numbers listed at the end of this publication.

The Bureau conducts its investigations in private and keeps confidential the identity of the source and the information provided. However, if someone has important evidence about a contravention of any of the acts the Bureau administers, that person may be asked to testify in court.

Written Opinions

The Competition Bureau facilitates compliance with the law by providing various types of written opinions subject to fees. Company officials, lawyers and others are encouraged to request an opinion on whether the implementation of a proposed business plan or practice would raise an issue under the Competition Act. These written opinions are binding on the Commissioner of Competition when all the material facts have been submitted by or on behalf of an applicant for an opinion and when they are accurate. A specific written opinion will be based on information provided by the requestor and will take into account previous case law, prior opinions and the stated policies of the Bureau.

The Bureau produces CD-ROMS and publications on various aspects of the Competition Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, the Textile Labelling Act and the Precious Metals Marking Act. To find out more about our CD-ROMs and publications, contact the Information Centre:

Information Centre
Competition Bureau
50 Victoria Street
Gatineau QC  K1A 0C9

Toll-free: 1-800-348-5358
National Capital Region: 819-997-4282
TDD (for hearing impaired): 1-800-642-3844
Fax: 819-997-0324
Online: Enquiries/Complaints
Web site:

This publication is only a guide. It provides basic information about the Competition Bureau and the acts it administers. For further information, you should refer to the full text of the acts or contact the Competition Bureau at one of the numbers listed above.

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