As Canadians prepare for Black Friday and Cyber Monday shopping, the Competition Bureau is warning bargain hunters to be watchful for a potential online scam called the “cancelled discount.”

The bureau says the cancelled discount is an advertising trend on their radar that involves multiple steps:

  • a retailer advertises an item for a certain price online;
  • the consumer buys it at that price;
  • the retailer then contacts the consumer, indicating the item cannot be sold at that price and cancels the order;
  • the item is still available for purchase, but at a higher price.

The Competition Bureau says in some circumstances, this practice can be considered an illegal “bait-and-switch,” where an advertised item is used to lure customers to a store, but the item is unavailable and the consumer is then pressured into buying a more high-priced product.

The Competition Bureau is urging consumers to keep all emails and credit card statements associated with any purchases that might be cancelled. They can also send a complaint to the bureau if they’ve been told an item can’t be sold as advertised, but is available at a higher price.

The bureau is also advising shoppers to regularly check their bank statements to guard against any surprise charges.