A few months ago, Connecticut Attorney General Richard Blumenthal sued Best Buy, alleging bait-and-switch tactics that arose from discrepancies of its online advertised price and in-store pricing. The suit claims that Best Buy maintained two sets of Web sites, one for the Internet and the other for in-store use. The second copy led to Best Buy’s troubles by allegedly misleading customers, according to the Attorney General.
Beyond the bait-and-switch tactics, the case points to far more profound issues involving Web sites, product packaging and software sales. In the past, consumers felt assured their software purchase would be protected by future updates and improvements. Even consumers that purchase hardware, such as computers and mobile phones, feel future proofed, secure in the knowledge that their software would be updated and patched indefinitely through the life of the product.
But an emerging class of software sold as subscription services is changing the game. Generally, vendors that sell the software directly online make sure the subscription’s terms and conditions are clear. But troubles arise when those vendors sell the product through brick-and-mortar retailers. The problems not only threaten the software companies with potential litigation, but also unwitting retailers.