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What constitutes a deceptive trade practice?

There are a variety of colloquial ways to describe business practices that attempt to unfairly take advantage of business partners or customers, such as “sharp dealing” or fraud, but the term that the law applies to them collectively is “deceptive trade practices.” Ohio law codifies activities that comprise such unfair dealings in its adoption of the Uniform Deceptive Trade Practices Act.

This post presents an overview only of the subject of Ohio deceptive trade practices law, and is not intended as a comprehensive treatment of the subject. It should not be taken as legal advice. If you need legal advice on how to avoid having your business accused of such unfair practices, or to defend your business interests if you have been so accused, consulting with a business attorney who knows how Ohio's relevant laws work is an important first step to take.

Most of the time, a deceptive trade practice will take the form of activities that are meant to fool a customer into believing something about a business, its services or products that is not true. Some of the types of deceptive trade practices that can be found under Ohio law include:

False Advertising. This consists of making false factual representations about a good or service, or making false and disparaging claims about a competitor's product or service.

Bait and Switch. This tactic involves offering an product or service in an ad but not having that particular item available when the customer comes to buy it; instead, the customer is directed toward a similar product or service for a higher price or of lesser quality than the one advertised. A variation of the bait and switch ploy is known as "low stock": a business advertises an item for an extremely low price but purposefully has only a small quantity of that it on hand.

Deceptive Pricing. This often manifests itself through fake "sales" of products using artificially inflated "retail" prices that the seller never intended to charge to fool customers into believing that they are getting a better deal than is actually the case.

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