Consumers in California are using online sources more often when considering large purchases, such as vehicles. Going to a dealer's website allows them to browse the inventory without pressure, compare vehicles and seek the best prices. More often, dealers are confronted with educated customers who have done their research, know what they want and are not interested in a long afternoon of wandering through the rows of vehicles. This has resulted in an increase in a familiar type of dealer fraud known as bait and switch.
This old strategy for getting customers to the car lot developed when dealerships began placing ads in local newspapers. The bait and switch tactic is when the dealer advertises a car for a substantially low price without intending to sell it at that price. In fact, in many cases, the car advertised is not even in the seller's inventory. When customers come to the lot to ask about the advertised car, the dealer says the car must have been sold and then proceeds to try to sell the customer a higher-priced car.
A variation that modern dealers use is to advertise generous rebates and discounts to qualified buyers. Most buyers do not qualify for the rebates, but the dealer may not tell them so until they have sat for hours completing the finance process. Because they have already invested so much time and effort, many customers simply complete the sale and purchase the car.
Car dealers are required to conduct their business with the same level of integrity expected of any industry. Using bait and switch is a form of dealer fraud and is a violation of California's consumer protection laws. For assistance in seeking recompense for such fraud, consumers can turn to a knowledgeable attorney.
Source: carprousa.com, "The NEW 2016 Car Dealer Bait and Switch: Internet Pricing", Jerry Reynolds, Accessed on Feb. 19, 2018