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Ad Complaints Reports - Q2 2009

Overview
The following are case summaries of consumer complaints about advertising that were upheld by Standards Councils for the Q2 2009. 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 consumer complaints regarding advertisements that were found by a 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 In this section, the advertising in question was not withdrawn or amended before Council met to deliberate on the complaint.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, the Consumer Complaint Procedure, and previous Ad Complaints Reports select the following links:

Canadian Code of Advertising Standards
Consumer Complaint Procedure
Previous Ad Complaints Reports


Identified Cases - April 1, 2009 - June 30, 2009
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: AIC Wireless Inc.
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: Ontario
Media: Digital - Display ads
Complaint(s): 1
Description: The advertiser promoted discounted long distance rates of ".10c/min (US: .20c/min)".
Complaint: When the complainant inquired about the rates, the advertiser acknowledged that the advertised rates were incorrect. In fact, the correct rates were ten cents per minute in Canada (rather than one-tenth of a cent per minute), and twenty cents per minute to the US (rather than one-fifth of a cent per minute).
Decision: Based on the facts, Council concluded that the advertisement contained an inaccurate claim.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Air Canada Vacations
Industry: Leisure services - Travel services
Region: National
Media: Digital - Display ads
Complaint(s): 1
Description: An air and hotel vacation package to Maui was advertised on the advertiser’s website at an attractive price.
Complaint: When the complainant attempted to book a 2 bedroom-2 bathroom ocean view condo in the featured resort he found that the price had increased significantly over the advertised price.
Decision: According to the advertiser, the website price was a per-person price based on quadruple occupancy; and the final price to the consumer was adjusted for matters such as double occupancy after the components of the vacation package were selected. Council carefully reviewed the website advertisement but could find no reference to the price being based on quadruple occupancy. Council found that by failing to disclose this important information, the advertisement contained an inaccurate claim.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).
Advertiser's Verbatim Statement: “The pricing structure is always per person based on two adults sharing the accommodation. Our findings revealed that the price for the accommodation in question was per person for a quadruple occupancy, as a result of a purely inadvertent oversight. Upon receipt of the complaint, the matter was verified and analyzed thoroughly. The necessary steps and appropriate corrective measures were taken immediately with the concerned parties to ensure that a similar situation would not occur again in the future. The said advertisement was withdrawn immediately. By correcting the issue, there is no further exposure, distribution or circulation. We contacted the concerned clients and rectified the situation to their satisfaction prior to their departure.”


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Alarm Force Industries
Industry: Other
Region: National
Media: Radio
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a radio commercial for an alarm care service, heard by the complainant in 2009, the advertiser announced “the launch (emphasis added) of our new product...”
Complaint: According to the complainant, the service was launched in February 2008, and should not be advertised as being "new."
Decision: The overall impression conveyed by the commercial was that a new service was being launched as of the date the listener heard the commercial. In fact, the service had been launched over a year ago. Council, therefore, concluded that the commercial conveyed an inaccurate and misleading impression about a service.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Grand Prairie Hyundai
Industry: Cars and motorized vehicles – General
Region: Alberta
Media: Newspapers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a newspaper advertisement the advertiser offered free gas valued at $500 with the purchase of any new or used vehicle.
Complaint: According to the complainant who purchased a vehicle in July 2008, the advertiser failed to honour the advertised offer.
Decision: In Council's view, the clear message conveyed by the newspaper advertisement was that purchasers of vehicles from this automobile dealer would receive from the advertiser either free gas valued at $500, or $500 to apply against the purchase of gas. In fact, purchasers were obliged to register with a marketing company unrelated to the advertiser, and then submit monthly receipts to obtain gas cards valued up to $500 for use at a designated gas retailer. None of these conditions and restrictions was disclosed in the newspaper advertisement. Council, therefore, concluded that the advertisement contained a misleading claim, omitted relevant information about the offer, and did not clearly state all pertinent details of the offer.
Infraction: Clauses 1 (a), (b) and (c).
Advertiser's Verbatim Statement: Grande Prairie Hyundai is truly remorseful that closer attention was not paid to a disclaimer before the offer of a “free gas voucher” went into circulation via the newspaper last summer. It is unfortunate that the original flyer’s disclaimer was not printed on the newspaper version of the ad. Grande Prairie Hyundai has, and will continue to apologize to our clients that have come forth; for the unintended problems the gas vouchers have caused.


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: High Falls Cottage Resort
Industry: Leisure services - Travel services
Region: Ontario
Media: Brochures/leaflets/flyers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a brochure the advertiser claimed the resort was located on “Canada’s Only Bay Where 5 Separate Waterfalls Come Together Like Magic.”
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the claim was inaccurate because four of the five identified falls did not exist.
Decision: Based on the information available to ASC from the local municipal authority, including information about local falls, as well as in a map from the local Chamber of Commerce, two of the falls identified in the brochure did not appear to exist. Council, therefore, concluded that the advertisement contained an inaccurate claim.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Hyundai Auto Canada Corp.
Industry: Cars and motorized vehicles – General
Region: National
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 4
Description: The performance and handling capabilities of the advertised vehicle were featured in a commercial that showed the vehicle being driven at what appeared to be high speeds, as if in a race. The commercial ended by showing the vehicle spinning to a stop. Cautionary disclaimers were included in two places. One super appeared near the beginning of the commercial. It read “Dramatization. Professional driver on a closed-circuit course. Do not attempt.” The second super appeared near the conclusion of the commercial and read “Never, ever, ever attempt.”
Complaint: That the manner in which the car was driven encourage unsafe and reckless driving.
Decision: It was clear that the car in the commercial was being driven on a closed-circuit track and not on public roads; and that the driver appeared to be a professional, wearing full safety gear. It was important, in Council's opinion, that the commercial should not be interpreted by viewers as an encouragement or invitation to drive in the manner depicted in the commercial. Further, the advertiser attempted to provide the disincentive by including the two cautionary disclaimers in the commercial. However, Council found that these disclaimers were neither big enough nor on-screen long enough to be clearly visible, as required under the Code.
Infraction: Clause 1(d).
Advertiser's Verbatim Statement: Hyundai Auto Canada Corp. (“Hyundai”) is disappointed with the decision reached by the Consumer Review Council. As a responsible advertiser, Hyundai always seeks to abide by both the spirit and letter of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, and believes that the advertisement adhered to the spirit and letter of the Code. While Hyundai strongly disagrees with the decision reached by Council, it respects the decision of Council. Hyundai presently does not have any plans to air this advertisement again. If that should change, Hyundai will make amendments to the advertisement, taking into consideration the concerns of Council.


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Maybelline New York
Industry: Health & beauty - Other
Region: Quebec
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A commercial for a brand of mascara illustrated the lengthening effects of the advertised product.
Complaint: The complainant alleged it was impossible to achieve the results depicted in the commercial without the use of false eyelashes.
Decision: The use of false eyelashes/inserts in mascara commercials is important information that must be clearly communicated so that viewers understand the basis for the depiction. While the commercial contained a super stating “ Filmed with lash inserts, “ to Council, the super was not on screen long enough to be easily read and understood by viewers. Council, therefore, concluded that the disclaimer in this commercial was not presented in a manner that was clearly visible.
Infraction: Clauses 1 (a) and (d).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Scotts Canada Ltd.
Industry: Household goods - Other
Region: National
Media: Newspapers
Complaint(s): 2
Description: Various noxious weeds were illustrated in a newspaper advertisement for a branded weed killer. One of the weeds was identified in the advertisement as ragweed.
Complaint: The complainants believed that the plant described as ragweed in the advertisement was actually the goldenrod plant, which is not a noxious weed.
Decision: Council recognized that the two plants have a similar look during some stages of their growth. However, given that the advertisement was intended to identify the noxious weeds that the advertised product could eliminate, it was imperative, in Council's view, that the advertisement be correct, and not misidentify a harmless weed as a noxious one. Although Council believed the mistaken identification was unintended by the advertiser, the illustration of the plant described as ragweed was, nonetheless, inaccurate and could lead to the decimation of a plant that is harmless.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).
Advertiser's Verbatim Statement: The Scotts Company appreciates the concerns raised as a result of the recent Roundup Brand Products ad featured in the Toronto Star. There was absolutely no intent to mislead the public regarding the approved uses for Roundup Herbicide under the newly implemented Ontario Pesticide laws. This is confirmed both within the headline and the body copy. There are no direct or implied references to product uses other then is what is legally allowed in Ontario. There is a debate with regards to the image used in the ad to represent Ragweed. There are numerous types of ragweed and we chose a species that is recognized by consumers. The illustration is a true representation of a species of Ragweed and was not intended to cause any confusion with other types of plants.


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Shoppers Drug Mart
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: National
Media: Brochures/leaflets/flyers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A name brand of paper towels was advertised in a flyer at a special price good for two days of a specified week. In small print at the bottom of another page in the flyer, a disclaimer stated that “Unless otherwise indicated, we will gladly provide the purchaser with a rain check…”
Complaint: The complainant was told he wasn't entitled to, and was not given, a rain check for the out-of-stock paper towels.
Decision: Council could find no statement in the entire flyer to the effect that rain checks were unavailable for items included in the two day sale. In fact, the exact opposite was stated in the disclaimer paragraph at the end of the flyer. Furthermore, the complainant was told by the advertiser’s customer service staff that each store had the discretion to decide whether rain checks would be issued at all. Council concluded that the advertisement omitted relevant information, did not clearly state all details of an advertised offer, and also contained a disclaimer that contradicted the more prominent aspect of the message.
Infraction: Clauses 1(b), (c), and (d).
Advertiser's Verbatim Statement: “Upon review of the Consumer Response Council’s decision and a further investigation into this matter, Shoppers Drug Mart has determined that this is not a matter of an error in the advertisement, but a store-level error. The advertisement did not omit information relating to rain checks as it was not intended that rain checks would not be issued for the paper towels. The complainant’s request for a rain check should have been honoured. Steps have been taken to ensure that similar mistakes do not occur. Please be assured that we take all regulatory requirements relating to advertising very seriously and respect the role of Advertising Standards Canada. We hope our response assists in clarifying this matter.”


Clause 14: Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals

Advertiser: Canadian Centre for Bio-Ethical Reform
Industry: Non-commercial - Ads by government
Region: Alberta
Media: Out-of-Home - Billboard, Poster, Transit
Complaint(s): 1
Description: An advertisement on the outside of a moving truck consisted of a photograph of an aborted fetus (at 11 weeks) displayed on the fingers of a hand. Beside the image, the word “Choice” was shown. Also shown was a website address “unmaskingchoice.ca“and a telephone number.
Complaint: The complainants alleged that this image and message constituted an advertisement that offended the standards of public decency.
Decision: Council recognized that, in order to draw attention to an important societal issue, advocacy advertising sometimes uses imagery that might offend some individuals. Whether a particular advocacy advertisement actually raises an issue under the Code depends on a number of factors such as the context and content of the advertisement, the audience it reaches or is intended to reach, and the medium/media used to deliver the advertisement. Advertising that appears on the outside of a moving vehicle is exposed, without limitation, to people of all ages, backgrounds and sensitivities, including children, all of whom are given no option but to view, and be affected, by the advertising when they see it. It is understood how and why young children, their parents and others could find this particular advertising to be shocking, profoundly disturbing and offensive. Council, therefore, concluded that the advertising using the image of an aborted embryo in this medium and in this way, displayed obvious indifference to conduct or attitudes that offend the standards of public decency prevailing among a significant segment of the population. Council also concluded that the imagery, when combined with the words “unmasking choice”, denigrated women who have chosen to have an abortion.
Infraction: Clauses 14(c) and (d).
Advertiser's Verbatim Statement: “The images at issue can be seen on our website unmaskingchoice.ca. We are surprised at the ASC’s conclusion, since not long ago virtually identical images were displayed in the Canadian public square for all ages to see and were found by a court of law to be protected speech in our free and democratic society. Furthermore, this decision of the ASC is an attempt at censorship by a non-governmental body of individuals whose decision has no bearing on what we do nor has any authority to limit our or anyone else's freedom of speech. The ASC has allowed itself to become the pawn of someone wanting to silence us out of the public square, like repressive regimes in North Korea and China do, rather than engage in an intellectually honest exchange of ideas. We refuse to be intimidated.”
Comment by ASC: “An advertiser's entitlement to state their position on their advertisements about which a Council has upheld one or more complaints is enshrined in the Code. Also stated upfront in the Code, are the following fundamental principles: First, that the Code is not intended to replace the many laws and guidelines designed to regulate advertising in Canada. [Note: The Code reference is to "regulate" and not to "censor" advertising.] And, second, that the Code has as its primary purpose the expression of Canadian standards in advertising that, when followed, should result in responsible yet effective advertising without unreasonably blunting the underlying fundamental right to advertise lawfully-sold products and services in a fair but competitive manner. Nor, in the case of advocacy advertising, to unreasonably blunt the advertiser's right to advertise a point-of-view that bears on a publicly recognized controversial issue."




Non-Identified Cases - April 1, 2009 - June 30, 2009
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Consumer Product Manufacturer
Industry: Health & beauty - Other
Region: Quebec
Media: Magazines
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A magazine advertisement illustrated the volumizing effects of a brand of mascara.
Complaint: The complainant alleged it was impossible to achieve the results depicted in the advertisement without the use of false eyelashes.
Decision: According to Council, the fact that lash inserts were worn by the model in this advertisement was important information that should have been clearly disclosed in the advertisement. Because it was not, Council concluded that the advertisement conveyed an inaccurate impression about the effects that users of the advertised product could achieve.
Infraction: Clause 1 (a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Consumer Product Manufacturer
Industry: Health & beauty - Other
Region: Quebec
Media: Magazines
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A magazine advertisement illustrated the lengthening and volumizing effects of a brand of mascara.
Complaint: The complainant alleged it was impossible to achieve the results depicted in the advertisement without the use of false eyelashes.
Decision: In its response to Council, the advertiser acknowledged that the image of the lashes had been enhanced during post production. According to Council, this was important information that should have been clearly disclosed in the advertisement. Because it was not, Council concluded that the advertisement conveyed an inaccurate impression about the effects that users of the advertised product could achieve.
Infraction: Clause 1 (a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Licensed Establishment
Industry: Food
Region: British Columbia
Media: Newspapers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a newspaper advertisement customers were invited to ”Play For Free Texas Hold ‘Em.”
Complaint: According to the complainant, when he wanted to play Texas Hold ‘Em in the establishment’s poker room, he was told there was a $5.00 cover charge.
Decision: In its response to Council, the advertiser explained that, although a cover charge to play is not required, a minimum $5.00 food and beverage purchase is required. Council concluded that the advertisement should have clearly stated the minimum purchase requirement. Because all pertinent details were not disclosed, Council found that the advertisement contravened the Code.
Infraction: Clause 1 (c).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Retailer
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: Alberta
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a television commercial concerning a sale, the advertiser claimed its stores would be closed on a specified date.
Complaint: According to the complainant, the store he visited was not closed on that date.
Decision: Council found that the impression conveyed by the television commercial was that advertiser’s stores would be closed on the stated date so that staff could prepare for the next day’s sale. In fact, some stores apparently were not closed; nor was there any signage in their windows or otherwise to indicate to consumers why the stores were open. Council, therefore, concluded that the advertisement contained an inaccurate claim
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Retailer
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: Ontario
Media: Brochures/leaflets/flyers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a flyer, a retailer featured a sale price for watermelon from Mexico. Directly above the photograph of the watermelon was a Foodland Ontario logo that is used to indicate the associated food is grown in Ontario.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the advertisement was misleading.
Decision: The advertiser acknowledged the mistake was inadvertent, and that the Foodland Ontario logo was unintentionally included in the flyer next to a food that was not grown in Ontario. Based on the acknowledged facts, Council found that the advertisement contained an inaccurate claim
Infraction: Clause 1 (a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Retailer
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: Quebec
Media: Brochures/leaflets/flyers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A cosmetic product was advertised in a flyer at $19.99.
Complaint: When the consumer visited the store, she found that the product was available at a price that was higher than that advertised in the flyer.
Decision: In this case, only those products bearing a specific UPC code that were displayed in an end aisle at the entrance to the store were available at the price advertised in the flyer. The same sized product, bearing a different UPC code, was available elsewhere in the store, but at higher than advertised price. To Council, the fact that only products with a specific UPC code were for sale at $19.99 was important information that was not disclosed anywhere in the flyer. Council, therefore, concluded that the advertisement contravened the Code by not clearly and understandably stating all details of the offer in a clear and understandable manner.
Infraction: Clause 1(c).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Service Provider
Industry: Other
Region: Quebec
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: The advertiser’s service was described in a commercial as being available all over Quebec.
Complaint: The service was not available in a significant area of Quebec.
Decision: Although the advertised service was accessible by a very large proportion of the population of Quebec, it was not available in an important geographic area of Quebec. To Council, the advertising conveyed the impression of geographic territory, not the number of people that could access the service. Council, therefore, concluded that the advertisement conveyed a misleading impression about the availability of the advertised services.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).