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Recent Complaint Case Summaries

Overview

The following are case summaries of consumer complaints about advertising that were recently upheld by Standards Councils (Councils). Councils are composed of senior advertising industry and public representatives, who volunteer their time to adjudicate consumer complaints under the provisions of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (Code).

The case summaries are divided into two sections.

Identified Cases

This section identifies the involved advertisers and provides details about consumers’ complaints regarding advertisements that were found by Council to contravene the Code. In this section, the advertising in question was not withdrawn or amended before Council met to deliberate on the complaint. Where provided, an “Advertiser’s Statement” is included in the case summary.

Non-Identified Cases

This section summarizes consumer complaints upheld by Council without identifying the advertiser or the advertisement. In these cases, the advertiser either withdrew, permanently retired, or appropriately amended the advertisement in question after being advised by Advertising Standards Canada that a complaint had been received, but before the matter was adjudicated by Council.

As required by the Code, retail advertisers also ran timely corrective advertisements in consumer-oriented media that reached the same consumers to whom the original advertising was directed.

For information about the Code and the Consumer Complaint Procedure, select the following links:

Canadian Code of Advertising Standards
Consumer Complaint Procedure


Identified Cases - January 1, 2017 - Mar 29, 2017
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Abbott Laboratories, Limited
Industry: Health & beauty - OTC
Region: National
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A television commercial for a meal replacement product showed a woman saying: “When I don’t eat enough of what I should, I have Ensure”. A voiceover stated: “After age 40, we lose significant muscle mass each year. Ensure has protein to build muscle and 26 vitamins and minerals.” At this point an animated bicep muscle was shown enlarging significantly and rapidly in size.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the illustration of the degree and speed of muscle growth was exaggerated and misleading.
Decision: In its response to Council the advertiser stated that the animated image of the muscle was used to illustrate the functional role of protein in building muscle and that the claim was clearly linked to that protein function. It appeared to Council, however, that the dramatic increase in muscle growth occurred immediately after the woman consumed the product. Council found that this animated demonstration exaggerated the benefits of the product following consumption, both in terms of the speed with which the muscle enlargement occurred, as well as the degree of muscle enlargement. Council, therefore, found the depiction in the commercial was misleading.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Coquitlam Chrysler Jeep Dodge
Industry: Cars and motorized vehicles – General
Region: British Columbia
Media: Direct Marketing - eMail, SMS, MMS
Complaint(s): 1
Description: The opportunity to get a $1,000 Walmart gift card, a chance to win $10,000 and instant prizes, and a $100 gift card was offered by a car dealership in a promotion which the complainant received by email. The email declared that the complainant was an Instant Winner and had won a $1,000 Walmart gift card.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that because the advertiser would not allow him to claim the instant prize, the Instant Win promotion was misleading.
Decision: In Council’s view, the advertisement unequivocally promised the complainant he had won the $1,000 Walmart gift card. Because the dealership would not honour its promise, as advertised, Council found that the advertisement was misleading, omitted relevant information, and did not clearly state all pertinent details of the offer.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a),(b) and (c).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Ghost Rescuer
Industry: Leisure services - Other
Region: British Columbia
Media: Newspapers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: Several advertisements in a community newspaper promoted ghost removal services by a professional ghost rescuer. In one of the advertisements, the ghost rescuer made a number of claims including: “Ghosts have the same energy as your kitchen outlet”; “a ghost is the soul of a person”; and “Even if you don’t believe in ghosts, my services work anyway!”
Complaint: The complainant alleged the advertisements were misleading and that the claims were not supported by competent scientific evidence.
Decision: Council agreed with the complainant, finding that the advertising claims and representations were not supported by competent and reliable evidence, and that, as a result, the advertising contained deceptive or misleading claims.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a) and (e).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Maple Ridge Chrysler Jeep Dodge
Industry: Cars and motorized vehicles – General
Region: British Columbia
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a television commercial, the spokespersons for the advertiser referred to two different individuals who received “cash back” from the automobile dealership when they purchased new vehicles. The two individuals were shown holding oversized cheques in the amounts of $41,000 and $50,000, respectively. The commercial also included a large text super stating “$50,000 Cash Back at 0%”. A disclaimer at the bottom of the commercial advised: “See dealer for details. OAC. On select models only.”
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the advertisement was misleading because the cash back offers were, in fact, repayable loans.
Decision: The advertiser submitted that the reference in the commercial to “OAC” meant repayable loans, notwithstanding the fact that the commercial repeatedly referred to getting cash back and never referenced “repayable loans”. Moreover, the commercial clearly showed the two individuals holding oversized cheques, as if they had received these cash back payments. In Council’s judgement, the advertising did not communicate the fact that when it emphasized “cash back”, the advertiser actually meant a “loan”. Council, therefore, found that the advertisements were misleading and omitted relevant information.
Infraction: Clause 1(a) and (e).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Sears Canada Inc.
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: Manitoba
Media: Direct Marketing - eMail, SMS, MMS
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In an advertisement emailed to the complainant, the advertiser offered: “Try any mattress in store and receive $10*. Some restrictions apply. See store for details.”
Complaint: The complainant alleged that staff in the Sears store she visited would not honour the advertised $10 offer.
Decision: In its response to Council, the advertiser stated that consumers would not receive $10 in cash when they ‘tried’ a mattress in a Sears store. Rather they would receive a $10-off coupon applicable to a minimum $25 purchase from Sears. To Council, it was clear from the advertisement that the advertiser promised customers $10 cash for simply trying any in-store mattress, not a $10-off coupon redeemable against a purchase from Sears costing $25 or more. Council, concluded, therefore that the advertisement omitted relevant information and was misleading,
Infraction: Clauses 1 (a) and (b).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: St. Catharines Right to Life
Industry: Non-commercial - Other
Region: Ontario
Media: Out-of-Home - Billboard, Poster, Transit
Complaint(s): 1
Description: Two women were shown side-by-side in a transit advertisement. One woman was obviously pregnant and the other woman was shown holding a baby in her arms. The headline of the advertisement read: “Same Person Inside and Out.”
Complaint: The complainant alleged the advertisement was misleading because a foetus is not legally considered to be a “person”.
Decision: In Council’s judgment, the advertisement unequivocally conveyed the message that a foetus is a “person”. Given that under the Criminal Code of Canada, a “person” begins life not before, but at live birth, Council found that it was inaccurate to claim in the advertisement that an unborn foetus is a “person”, thereby contravening the Code.
Appeal: Following its careful review of the advertising in question and the submissions by both the Complainant and the Advertiser, the Appeal Panel unanimously affirmed Council’s original decision.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).
Advertiser's Verbatim Statement: “The Same Person Inside and Out.” Or not? Someone complained that our bus shelter ad was inaccurate because the law does not recognize what’s in the woman’s womb as a person. The Advertising Standards Council agreed. So what is in the woman’s womb? Is it alive? Is it human? If a live human being, why not a person? Is whatever the law says the final word on what a person is? Canadian law used to deny that women were persons. Did they only become persons when the law said so? American law used to deny that black Americans were persons. Did they only become persons when the law said so? Was it right to stop anyone from questioning those laws that denied women or blacks were persons? Is it right to stop anyone from saying that the child in a woman’s womb is a person?




Non-Identified Cases - January 1, 2017 - Mar 29, 2017
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity
Clause 2: Disguised Advertising Techniques

Advertiser: Cosmetic Company
Industry: Health & beauty - Cosmetics
Region: National
Media: Digital - Display ads
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a social media post on Instagram, an influencer described her experience with a facial product.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that post was actually a sponsored advertisement that should have been identified as such.
Decision: Council, agreed with the complainant, finding that the Instagram post was disguised advertising and failed to disclose the relevant information that the posting contained sponsored content. The advertiser is not identified in this case summary because it took steps before Council met to adjudicate the complaint to have the post appropriately amended with the addition of “#ad”.
Infraction: Clauses 2 (b) and 1(b).