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How Complaints about Advertising are Handled

ASC carefully considers and responds to all written complaints from members of the public about advertising. The consumer complaints process includes the following steps.

1. Complaint Receipt

Each written consumer complaint is reviewed by ASC against the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (Code).

2. Preliminary Review

ASC conducts a preliminary evaluation of the complaint.

If the complaint does not raise an issue under the Code, or if ASC cannot accept the complaint, ASC sends a letter of explanation. Details can be found in the Exclusions and Non-reviewable Complaints sections of the Code.

3. How Complaints Are Handled

Complaints that raise Code issues are handled in different ways depending upon the nature of the complaint.

Complaints About Safety Issues (Clause 10) or Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals (Clause 14)
The advertisement is forwarded to the advertiser who is given the opportunity to respond directly to the consumer about the complaint. If, after receiving the advertiser’s response, the consumer is not satisfied, the consumer can request a review by the Standards Council. Council is made up of senior representatives from the advertising industry and the public, who volunteer their time to support the consumer complaints process.

Complaints Under All Other Code Clauses
The advertiser is asked to comment, in writing to ASC, on the consumer’s concerns. If there remains a concern under the Code, the matter will be forwarded to Council for a decision.

Administratively Resolved Complaints About Accuracy and Clarity (Clause1) or Price Claims (Clause 3)
ASC can administratively resolve cases that involve an apparent contravention of either or both Clauses 1 and 3 without forwarding the case to Council if the advertiser:

  • has remedied the contravention by permanently withdrawing or appropriately amending the advertisement in question upon being advised of the complaint by ASC, and, in the case of retail advertising, by also publishing a corrective advertisement or a correction notice

4. Council Review and Decision

Complaints forwarded to Council are carefully reviewed under the Code. If Council determines that the advertisement contravenes one or more clauses of the Code, Council will uphold the complaint. The advertiser is asked to amend or withdraw the advertisement.

Whether or not the complaint is upheld, ASC will inform the consumer and the advertiser, in writing, of Council’s decision.

5. Appealing a Council Decision

If the consumer or advertiser disagrees with Council’s decision, the consumer or advertiser can request an appeal within seven days of receiving the decision. For more information, refer to Appealing a Council Decision in the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards.

For more detailed information, refer to the Consumer Complaint Procedure.

Results of Council decisions are regularly reported by ASC. Click here for more information about ad complaints reporting.

To learn more about the role of the Councils, click here.

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