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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 In this section, the advertising in question was not withdrawn or amended before Council met to deliberate on the complaint.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, 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, 2017 - Jun 28, 2017
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

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

Advertiser: Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform
Industry: Non-commercial - Other
Region: Ontario
Media: Out-of-Home - Billboard, Poster, Transit
Complaint(s): 72
Description: In an advertisement on the outside of buses in the City of Peterborough, images were shown of foetuses at 7 weeks and sixteen weeks, with the word “Growing” under each image. The final image consisted of a red circle containing the word “Gone”. Immediately next to the images, the words “Abortion Kills Children” were printed in very large type, under which the words “endthekilling.ca” identified the advertiser’s website.
Complaint: The complainants alleged that the advertisement was both misleading and inappropriately graphic ‒ particularly to children.
Decision: Clause 1 (Accuracy and Clarity) Many of the complainants submitted it was misleading in the advertisement to use the words “Abortion Kills Children”. Under the Criminal Code of Canada, prior to live birth a foetus is not legally regarded as a child or person. On that basis, Council agreed with the complainants and found that the statement was misleading. Furthermore, the image of a foetus, together with the words “16 weeks growing…Gone” conveyed the impression, again misleading, that abortions are routinely performed after sixteen weeks. This is unsupported by the facts, which are that the vast majority of abortions in Canada are performed prior to, not after, twelve weeks. Council, therefore found that this aspect of the advertisement was also misleading. Clause 14 (Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals) It concerned most of the complainants that, given its high prominence and visibility on the outside of transit buses, this advertisement would inevitably be seen by children, among others, for whom the graphic images and the suggestion that children are being killed would be seriously disturbing. Council agreed and concluded that the advertisement displayed obvious indifference to conduct or attitudes that offend the standards of public decency prevailing among a significant segment of the population. As provided in the Code, ASC asked the Canadian Centre for Bio-ethical Reform to comply with the Standards Council’s decision by withdrawing this advertising. To date, the advertiser has not responded to ASC about Council’s decision.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a) and 14 (d).


Clause 3: Price Claims

Advertiser: Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: Quebec
Media: Direct Marketing - eMail, SMS, MMS
Complaint(s): 1
Description: Limited Industry: Retail Region: Quebec Media: Direct Marketing - Email Complaint(s): 1 Description: In Canadian Tire’s online flyer for the week of March 3 – 9, 2017, a wrench and 6 bonus impact sockets were advertised as a “Special Buy” for $179.99, allegedly representing a $120.00 savings off the regular price of $299.99. However, when, during the same time period, the complainant received a different electronic advertisement from the advertiser, the same product was advertised as having a regular price of $219.99.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the savings claim was misleading.
Decision: The same product was advertised within the same time period as having two different regular prices. Because the regular price of the advertised product could not be both $219.99 and $299.99 within the same time period, Council found that the advertisement contained a misleading savings claim.
Infraction: Clause 3(a).


Clause 3: Price Claims

Advertiser: Sears Canada Inc.
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: Alberta
Media: Direct Marketing - eMail, SMS, MMS
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In an advertisement, the price of the Kenmore Pro Heavy Duty Professional Blender was featured at $149.97. Located directly under the featured price were the words: “Compare at $579.99”. At the top of advertisement were the words: “It’s Back. Our Kenmore Pro Heavy Duty Professional Blender is back in stock.”
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the blender was never sold by Sears Canada at the price of $579.99.
Decision: The advertiser did not respond to ASC’s request for its comments on the merits of the complaint. When viewed as a whole, the advertisement conveyed to Council the impression that, when it was in stock at Sears Canada, the featured blender was usually sold at $579.99, compared to a special low price of $149.97. However, Council was unable to find any evidence that the product was ever sold by Sears Canada at the higher price. Council found that the advertisement contained an unrealistic and deceptive price comparison.
Infraction: Clause 3(a).


Clause 14: Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals

Advertiser: Bruffo Haute Couture Pour Hommes
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: Quebec
Media: Digital - Marketer - Owned Websites
Complaint(s): 5
Description: On the advertiser’s Facebook page, a woman was pictured from behind wearing only panties that bore the word “Bruffo”. On the advertiser’s website, a man was pictured wearing a jacket and shirt, while a woman was shown only wearing a bra.
Complaint: The complainants were women’s organizations who alleged that the images of the women inappropriately exploited women’s sexuality.
Decision: Council agreed with the complainants finding that because there was no connection between a woman’s sexuality and a men’s clothing store. In Council’s opinion, both images demeaned women and displayed obvious indifference, without merit, to conduct or attitude that offend standards of decency.
Infraction: Clauses 14(c) and (d).




Non-identified Cases - April 1, 2017 - Jun 28, 2017
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Acupuncture Clinic
Industry: Health and beauty services
Region: Alberta
Media: Radio
Complaint(s): 1
Description: The following claims regarding the efficacy of acupuncture were made in a radio commercial: “acupuncture is proven effective in the treatment of many conditions including: sciatica, headaches, and neck or lower back pain”.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the claims were not supported by scientific evidence.
Decision: After reviewing and assessing the evidence, which included recent decisions regarding the same claims following their review by the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK, Council found that the advertised claims in Canada were not scientifically supported by the evidence provided by the advertiser and, therefore, were misleading. The advertiser is not identified in this case summary because the advertisement was permanently withdrawn before Council met to adjudicate the complaint.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a) and (e).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Energy Company
Industry: Energy, water and combustibles - Utilities
Region: Western Canada
Media: Newspapers
Complaint(s): 2
Description: In a newspaper advertisement about making sustainable energy choices, the advertiser used the words “renewable natural gas”.
Complaint: The complainants alleged it was misleading to describe natural gas as “renewable.”
Decision: In its response to Council, the advertiser explained that “renewable natural gas” and conventional natural gas are two different products. Renewable natural gas is derived from biogas, which is produced from decomposing organic waste from landfills, agricultural waste and wastewater from treatment facilities. When captured and cleaned, renewable natural gas is a carbon neutral substitute for conventional natural gas. However, in the absence of any explanation in the advertisement of what the advertiser meant when it referred to “renewable natural gas “, the impression the advertising conveyed to Council was the same as to the complainants: that conventional natural gas was renewable, when it is not. Council, therefore, found the advertisement was inaccurate. The advertiser is not identified in this case summary because the advertisement was permanently withdrawn before Council met to adjudicate the complaints and the advertiser agreed to amend the advertising in future.
Infraction: Clause 1(a) and (d).