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Ad Complaints Reports - Q3 2009

Overview
The following are case summaries of consumer complaints about advertising that were upheld by Standards Councils for the Q3 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 In this section, the advertising in question was not withdrawn or amended before Council met to deliberate on the complaint.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 - July 1, 2009 - September 30, 2009
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Pharmasave Drugs (Pacific) Ltd.
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: British Columbia
Media: Brochures/leaflets/flyers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A package of 12 cans of Coca-Cola was advertised at $2.99.
Complaint: The consumer was unable to purchase the advertised products because the retailer had substituted Pepsi products for Coca-Cola products.
Decision: The advertiser acknowledged that its Kamloops retailer failed to follow instructions from head office to supply Coca-Cola, rather than Pepsi products, as part of the advertised promotion. Accordingly, Council found that, in the Kamloops area only, the advertisement contained an inaccurate claim.
Infraction: Clause 1 (a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Westwood CruiseShipCenters
Industry: Leisure services - Travel services
Region: British Columbia
Media: Brochures/leaflets/flyers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A 13 night Panama Canal Cruise was advertised from $499 (USD) per person.
Complaint: The cruise was unavailable at the advertised price.
Decision: The advertiser acknowledged that the price quoted in the flyer was a misprint. Based on the acknowledged facts, Council found that the advertisement contained an inaccurate price claim.
Infraction: Clause 1 (a).


Clause 10: Safety

Advertiser: Mazda Canada Inc.
Industry: Cars and motorized vehicles – General
Region: National
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: The commercial depicted the advertised vehicle passing and overtaking four cars travelling in tight formation on what appeared to be a public roadway. The voiceover stated “in the war between fun and practicality, there are victims and there are victors. To the victor, go the spoils.”
Complaint: That the commercial promoted unsafe driving.
Decision: To Council, the effect of the scenes showing the Mazda passing four cars together with the voiceover statement that “there are victims and victors”, all conveyed the undeniable impression of speed and racing. In addition, it was not at all clear from the visuals that the driving scenes were on a closed track and not on an open public road. Although the advertiser informed Council that the commercial included a super stating “Dramatization. Professional Drivers. Closed Course,” Council could not read the super because it was so small and on the screen for a very limited time. Because the commercial did not clearly establish and convey the impression that a professional driver was driving the Mazda on a test track or closed course, rather than on a public roadway, Council found that the commercial displayed a disregard for safety by depicting situations that might reasonably be interpreted as encouraging unsafe or dangerous practices or acts.
Infraction: Clause 10.


Clause 11: Superstition and Fears

Advertiser: Ajmeri Baba
Industry: Other
Region: Ontario
Media: Newspapers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: Readers of a full page advertisement in a Punjabi language newspaper were offered the advertiser’s expertise in black magic. Readers were assured that the advertiser had the ability to eliminate all personal worries, fulfil all desires, remove obstacles in the way of marrying a loved one, and eliminate lottery problems and business worries. Results were 100% guaranteed.
Complaint: That the advertisement played upon readers’ superstitions and fears.
Decision: Although requested by Council to do so, the advertiser provided no response on the merits of the complaint. Based on the available evidence, Council concluded that the advertisement exploited superstitions and played upon fears to mislead consumers.
Infraction: Clause 11.


Clause 14: Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals

Advertiser: Joe Rockhead’s Indoor Climbing Wall
Industry: Leisure Services-Entertainment, sports and leisure
Region: National
Media: Magazines
Complaint(s): 1
Description: An advertisement for an indoor climbing wall depicted a doll that parodied Jesus, together with words “Bigger than Jesus.”
Complaint: That the advertisement was demeaning to Christians.
Decision: Council found that by describing the climbing wall as being “Bigger than Jesus”, and by including a doll that caricaturized Jesus, the advertisement crossed the line of acceptability under the Code. Council concluded that referencing and characterizing Jesus in this way demeaned and denigrated the Christian religion and adherents of that faith.
Infraction: Clause 14(c).




Non-Identified Cases - July 1, 2009 - September 30, 2009
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Automobile Dealers
Industry: Cars and motorized vehicles – General
Region: Western Canada
Media: Newspapers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a newspaper advertisement, one model of a line of vehicles was advertised at a specified price.
Complaint: According to the complainant, the advertised model was not available for purchase from any dealer.
Decision: Even though dealers may have experienced difficulty in locating inventory of the advertised model, the vehicle should not have been advertised to the public unless adequate inventory was readily available at the dealerships. Council concluded that the advertisement conveyed an inaccurate impression about the availability of the advertised vehicle.
Infraction: Clause 1 (a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Consumer Product Manufacturer
Industry: Health & beauty - Other
Region: National
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a television commercial, the advertiser offered a money-back guarantee to consumers who were unsatisfied after trying the product.
Complaint: When the complainant called the advertiser to inquire about the guarantee, she was told that the refund was limited in amount to less than the full price including taxes and postage.
Decision: The advertiser acknowledged that all redemption requests were forwarded to its fulfillment agency, which mistakenly failed to follow the advertiser's instructions to fully reimburse purchasers who returned the product after trial, including an amount equal to taxes and postage. Based on the acknowledged facts, Council found that the advertisement contained an inaccurate claim.
Infraction: Clause 1 (a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Restaurant
Industry: Food
Region: National
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A food product in a large size container was shown and promoted in television commercials. At the end of the commercials a super appeared that read "2.29 small plus tax".
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the commercials were misleading.
Decision: Council found that, although the advertiser may not have intended to confuse or mislead the public, the qualifying word “small” in the super was neither clearly visible nor legible. Moreover, the super contradicted the more prominent visual aspect of the message. Council, therefore, found that the commercials conveyed an inaccurate impression about the price of a product.
Infraction: Clause 1 (a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Restaurant
Industry: Food
Region: Ontario
Media: Point-of-Sale
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A sign at a restaurant said that children could eat for free all summer.
Complaint: At the restaurant visited by the complainant, children could eat for free only from Sunday to Wednesday.
Decision: To Council, the claim in question conveyed the clear impression that children could eat for free everyday "all summer long.” Because the advertisement did not clarify that there were limitations on the applicable days, Council found that the advertisement did not disclose all pertinent details of the offer in a clear and understandable manner.
Infraction: Clause 1 (c).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Retailer
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: National
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A contentious claim in an infomercial about a sleep product raised health issues about the product.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the claim was an urban myth and was not true.
Decision: In its response to Council, the advertiser stated that the claim was anecdotal and authenticated by a story published in the Wall Street Journal. No independent test or research evidence was submitted by the advertiser to support the claim. Clause 1(e) of the Code requires that all advertising claims must be supportable. While the Wall Street Journal is a well respected publication, the information contained in the article was purely anecdotal. It did not cite any authoritative proof of the claim in the form of research or test data. Council, therefore, found that the claim was unsupported and misleading.
Infraction: Clauses 1 (a) and (e).