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Ad Complaints Reports - Q4 2010

Overview
The following are case summaries of consumer complaints about advertising that were upheld by Standards Councils for the Q4 2010. 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 In this section, the advertising in question was not withdrawn or amended before Council met to deliberate on the complaint.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 - Oct 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Best Buy Canada Ltd.
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: National
Media: Digital - Display ads
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A camera was advertised on the advertiser’s website at a sale price of $219.99, representing a savings of $1,980.
Complaint: The advertisement was inaccurate. The actual price of the camera was $2,199.99.
Decision: The advertiser acknowledged there was an inadvertent error that the advertiser corrected immediately upon discovering it. Based on the acknowledged facts, Council found that the advertisement contained inaccurate claims both about the price of the product and the applicable savings. While the advertiser corrected the price on its website, it did not post any correction notice in close proximity to the location of the original error as required by the Code.
Appeal: At an appeal hearing requested by the advertiser, Council’s original decision was affirmed.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a) and 3(a).
Advertiser's Verbatim Statement: “Best Buy Canada Ltd. (“Best Buy”) provides information for thousands of products on its websites. Unfortunately, errors in the description and pricing of these products do occasionally occur. Best Buy endeavors to ensure that errors are corrected as soon as they are detected and that the affected customers are notified of the error as soon as possible. Best Buy will also ensure that correction notices for these unintentional errors are posted online in the future. Best Buy strives to provide the most accurate information to its customers and will strive to ensure its compliance with the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards and will continue to support Advertising Standards Canada’s goal of “…ensur[ing] the integrity and viability of advertising through industry self-regulation” (Advertising Standards Canada website, , (date accessed: 28 October 2010).)”


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: British Columbia
Media: Brochures/leaflets/flyers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A 149 piece toolkit was advertised in a flyer.
Complaint: The advertisement was inaccurate because the toolkit consisted of only 141 pieces.
Decision: The advertiser acknowledged that the toolkit was incorrectly described in the flyer, and that it issued a correction notice to be posted at store level. However, apparently the staff at the Canadian Tire store visited by the complainant either were unaware of the correction notice, or were aware but did not display it. On the basis of the facts, Council found that the advertisement contained an inaccurate claim.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Unknown Advertiser
Industry: Other
Region: Ontario
Media: Newspapers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In an advertisement (identified only as a “paid advertisement”) in the Employment & Careers section of a free distribution newspaper, the headline claimed that “9/11 Was An Inside Job”. The advertisement invited readers to ask certain identified American politicians what they knew about it.
Complaint: The complainant objected to the fact that nowhere in this advocacy advertisement was the identity of the advertiser disclosed.
Decision: By invitation extended through the newspaper, the advertiser was given the opportunity to respond to Council regarding the complaint, but chose not to do so. The Code provides that if an advertiser fails to respond to a complaint or participate in the Consumer Complaint Procedure, the complaint may be decided in the advertiser’s absence based on the information already in Council’s possession. Council carefully reviewed the information on hand, agreed this was an advocacy advertisement and that the identity of the advertiser should have been disclosed, as required under the Code.
Infraction: Clause 1(f).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity
Clause 14: Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals

Advertiser: Regina Pro-Life
Industry: Non-commercial - Other
Region: Saskatchewan
Media: Out-of-Home - Billboard, Poster, Transit
Complaint(s): 2
Description: An advertisement on the exterior of a city bus read: “Abortion. The Ultimate Child Abuse.”
Complaint: The complainants alleged that the advertisement was not true.
Decision: The act of having an abortion and that of performing an abortion are not offences per se under the Criminal Code of Canada. In Council’s view, it was incorrect and inappropriate to equate a legal medical procedure with extreme child abuse. Council found, therefore, that the unqualified claim made in the advertisement was untrue. Council also found that equating abortion with extreme child abuse, as in this advertisement, both demeaned and disparaged women who have had abortions, thereby bringing them into public contempt.
Appeal: At an appeal hearing requested by the advertiser, Council’s original decision was affirmed.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a) and 14 (c).




Non-Identified Cases - Oct 1, 2010 - December 31, 2010
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Communications Service Provider
Industry: Other
Region: National
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a television commercial, the advertiser claimed that a certain quantity of items were available for viewing through an unlimited number of third parties.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the quantity cited in the commercial was inaccurate. He also alleged that when he called a third party to order the items, he was told that they were unavailable.
Decision: Council found that the disclaimer language in the television commercial was not sufficient to alert consumers to the fact that some third parties may be unwilling to provide the items as advertised. Council, therefore, found that the commercial conveyed the inaccurate impression that the items would be available without exception from all third party providers. Council also found the claim regarding the number of available items referred to in the TV commercial was inaccurate.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Financial Institution
Industry: Financial services
Region: Ontario
Media: Newspapers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a local newspaper a representative of the advertiser promoted the availability of a financial product long after the time when the advertiser stopped offering it to the public.
Complaint: That the advertisement was misleading.
Decision: The representative of the advertiser mistakenly ran an outdated advertisement that was no longer valid without obtaining approval from the advertiser. Based on the acknowledged facts, Council found that the advertisement was misleading.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Motor Vehicle Dealer
Industry: Cars and motorized vehicles – General
Region: British Columbia
Media: Radio
Complaint(s): 1
Description: The advertiser claimed that a car could be yours for a stated amount of money.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the claim was inaccurate as taxes were extra.
Decision: Consumers understand that prices in Canada are generally subject to tax. However, in this instance, the impression communicated to Council by the commercial was that all that one needed to pay was the stated price and absolutely nothing more. Because taxes were extra, the claim was not correct. Council therefore, found that the advertisement contained an inaccurate claim about the price of a product and omitted relevant information.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a) and (b).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Printer
Industry: Telecommunications - Other
Region: Saskatchewan
Media: Newspapers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: The advertiser claimed all its printing was locally produced.
Complaint: The complaint alleged that the claim was untrue and that the advertisement was misleading.
Decision: Based on the facts acknowledged by the advertiser, Council found that the advertisement was inaccurate. Council noted that the advertiser promptly corrected the advertising.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Retailer
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: National
Media: Digital - Display ads
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A sofa was advertised at a special price in an online catalogue.
Complaint: The complainant attempted but was unable to purchase the sofa at the advertised price.
Decision: Due to a systems error, the product was priced incorrectly online. The advertiser corrected the price upon learning of the error. Based on the acknowledged facts, Council found that the advertised price was inaccurate.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Retailer
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: National
Media: Newspapers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: Recreational equipment was advertised at a special price in a newspaper advertisement.
Complaint: When the complainant attempted to purchase the product she found it was unavailable as depicted in the photograph in the advertisement.
Decision: The disclaimer “some items shown are optional” should have been, but was not, included in the advertisement. Based on the acknowledged facts, Council found that the advertisement was inaccurate.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Service Provider
Industry: Other
Region: Ontario
Media: Digital - Display ads
Complaint(s): 1
Description: The advertiser claimed it had a 90% success rate in treating a specific physical condition.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the claim could not be substantiated and was misleading.
Decision: In the absence of any substantiation for the claim from the advertiser, Council found the advertisement was misleading.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a) and (e).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity
Clause 3: Price Claims

Advertiser: Retailer
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: National
Media: Brochures/leaflets/flyers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A camera was advertised in a flyer at “$179.99 after savings.” Immediately above the sale price, the phrase ”Save $50” was printed, implying the regular price was $229.99. When the complainant visited the local retail outlet, he found the camera advertised at the same sale price, but the regular price was listed as $199.99.
Complaint: That the regular price was inaccurately advertised.
Decision: After carefully comparing the in-store price claim with the price that was advertised in the flyer, Council agreed with the complainant and found that the regular price of $229.99 was an inaccurate claim.
Infraction: Clause 1(a) and Clause 3(a).


Clause 7: Testimonials

Advertiser: Service Provider
Industry: Other
Region: National
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: People were featured in a television commercial giving personal testimonials about a service to which they subscribed.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the advertisement was misleading because the testimonials were given by US, not Canadian customers.
Decision: In fact, the service available to Canadians was more limited than the one available to US customers. Council found that the experience of the US testimonial givers did not apply equally to the Canadian service. Council, therefore, found that the commercial contravened the Code because the testimonials were not based on adequate information about, or experience with the advertised Canadian service.
Infraction: Clause 7.


Clause 14: Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals

Advertiser: Retailer
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: British Columbia
Media: Digital - Display ads
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In an advertisement for a consumer product that showed a young man smoking a cigarette, the copy included language that referred to using marijuana.
Complaint: That the advertisement encouraged marijuana use.
Decision: The visual of the young man who appeared to be smoking marijuana combined with the language in the copy that referred to marijuana use conveyed the overall impression to Council that the advertisement condoned the use of marijuana. Council, therefore, found that the advertisement exhibited obvious indifference to unlawful behaviour.
Infraction: Clause 14(b).