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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 In this section, the advertising in question was not withdrawn or amended before Council met to deliberate on the complaint.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, 2016 - Jun 25, 2016
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity
Clause 4: Bait and Switch

Advertiser: Staples
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: Quebec
Media: Digital - Display ads
Complaint(s): 1
Description: An ad for a task chair priced at $9.97 was published on various websites.
Complaint: When the complainant attempted to purchase the chair he was told by the advertiser that the chair had been discontinued. He was offered an equivalent product by the advertiser at a much higher price. The complainant alleged that although the product apparently had been discontinued, he continued to receive ads for the same product at the same low price.
Decision: In its response to Council, the advertiser explained that the advertisement was part of a “re-targeting campaign”. To Council, however, the advertiser should have taken all necessary steps to remove advertisements for discontinued products in a timely manner. Council, therefore, agreed with the complainant that the advertisement was misleading and misrepresented the consumer’s opportunity to purchase product at the terms presented in the advertisement.
Infraction: Clause 1 (a) and Clause 4.


Clause 2: Disguised Advertising Techniques

Advertiser: Listen!UP Canada
Industry: Health and beauty services
Region: Ontario
Media: Newspapers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: The headline of a newspaper advertisement read: “Wanted. 30 People with Hearing Loss. Qualified Participants Needed for Technology Field Test”. In the body of the advertisement readers were invited to call to see if they qualified for a field test. Participants would be given the opportunity “to evaluate and report their experience wearing the latest, most advanced hearing aid technology for thirty days.”
Complaint: The complainant alleged the commercial intent of the advertisement was disguised as a research project.
Decision: In its response to Council, the advertiser stated that the purpose of the advertisement was to find hearing-impaired candidates to participate in a clinical trial by ListenUp!Canada. However, in Council’s evaluation, based on the advertising and the information made available to Council by the advertiser, the ultimate reason for the advertisement was to promote and demonstrate open-fit hearing aids to the selected participants in the field test for their trial and purchase.
Infraction: Clause 2.
Advertiser's Verbatim Statement: “We appreciate the chance to respond to the decision made by the Standards Council. We certainly have no desire to "conceal" anything in our advertising. We do hope that, as a result of a participant's involvement in the advertised field test opportunity, they will find benefit from wearing hearing aids and choose to purchase them and wear them every day for years to come. Providing the latest digital hearing aid technology and excellent audiological services is how we help improve the lives of those struggling with hearing loss. Field test research helps our clients determine whether hearing aids provide value to them, and at the same time, helps us improve what we do and how we do it clinically. In an effort to be more clear in our advertising, we have amended the ad to include mention of the opportunity to purchase the hearing aids at the end of the field test period.”


Clause 2: Disguised Advertising Techniques
Clause 9: Imitation

Advertiser: Pioneer Chrysler Jeep
Industry: Cars and motorized vehicles – General
Region: British Columbia
Media: Direct Marketing - Post
Complaint(s): 1
Description: Inside a direct mail envelope was a form entitled “Canada Automotive Rebate Program”. It included the Canadian flag in several places and read: “This initiative is designed to stimulate the economy through automotive sales, while providing you with debt relief by matching your 2015 Tax Refund by up to $1000.” To claim the rebate, consumers were required to bring their Notice of Assessment to Pioneer Chrysler Jeep and present valid government I.D. displaying postal code. The brown envelope containing the form displayed the Canadian flag in the top left corner, together with the words “Canadian Consumer Benefits Information”.
Complaint: The complainant alleged the advertisement was designed to resemble an official Government of Canada document, when, in fact, it was an advertisement for an automobile dealer.
Decision: To Council, the use of the Canadian flag both on the outer envelope and on a form, which resembled an official-looking document from Canada Revenue Agency, contributed to creating the impression that it was an official government communication. In reality, it was an advertisement by an automobile dealer. Council, therefore, found that the advertisement was presented in a format or style that concealed its commercial intent, and that the advertisement imitated the copy and illustrations of another advertiser (an agency or department of the Government of Canada).
Infraction: Clauses 2 and 9.


Clause 3: Price Claims

Advertiser: Scent Trunk
Industry: Health & beauty - Cosmetics
Region: Quebec
Media: Digital - Marketer - Owned Websites
Complaint(s): 1
Description: The complainant subscribed to a monthly fragrance delivery service from a Canadian company located in Ontario.
Complaint: The complainant alleged the advertisement was misleading because he was charged for his purchases in US funds.
Decision: The Code requires that advertised prices must be payable in Canadian funds, unless specifically quoted in a currency other than Canadian. However, nowhere on the advertiser’s website was it stated that prices were in US funds. Because the price was not identified as being in US dollars, Council found that the advertisement was misleading.
Infraction: Clause 3 (c).
Advertiser's Verbatim Statement: "Every page on the Scent Trunk website that makes reference to purchasing now clearly indicates that we charge in USD."


Clause 10: Safety

Advertiser: Mantha Insurance Brokers Ltd.
Industry: Financial services
Region: Ontario
Media: Brochures/leaflets/flyers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: An advertisement for an insurance brokerage firm depicted a toddler dressed like a biker driving a motorcycle. The toddler was pictured wearing a red bandana on his head. The headline of the advertisement read: “No Kidding! We’ll Save You Money.”
Complaint: The complainant alleged that advertisement encouraged unsafe and unlawful behavior.
Decision: Council understood that the advertiser intended the advertisement be humorous by depicting a young child dressed like a biker riding a motorcycle. However, the child was shown without a helmet and only a bandana for protection. To Council, the message conveyed by the advertisement, especially to impressionable readers, was that it is acceptable to ride a motorized vehicle, such as a motorcycle or ATV, without a helmet. Council, therefore, found that the advertisement displayed a disregard for safety by depicting a situation that might reasonably be interpreted as encouraging unsafe or dangerous practices, or acts.
Infraction: Clause 10.


Clause 10: Safety

Advertiser: Mazda
Industry: Cars and motorized vehicles – Safety
Region: National
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: The commercial depicted a car chase scenario, in which the Mazda driver and his female companion were shown attempting to escape an angry bridal party that was pursing the couple in another car. The Mazda driver was seen swerving dramatically to avoid a truck backing out of an alley, and braking so that the car went into a spin.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the commercial condoned unsafe driving.
Decision: Council agreed with the complainant that the driving manoeuvres shown in 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.




Non-identified Cases - April 1, 2016 - Jun 25, 2016
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Airline
Industry: Leisure services - Travel services
Region: National
Media: Digital - Marketer - Owned Websites
Complaint(s): 1
Description: An airline company advertised on its website that bassinet seats were offered on transatlantic flights, subject to availability.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the bassinet seats were offered only on certain transatlantic flights.
Decision: To Council, the general impression conveyed by the advertisement was that bassinet seats were offered on all transatlantic flights. Because that was not the case, Council found that the advertisement was misleading and omitted relevant information. The advertiser is not identified in this case summary because the advertiser clarified the advertisement before Council’s adjudication by stating that bassinet seats are not available on certain aircraft.
Infraction: Clauses 1 (a) and (b).


Clause 2: Disguised Advertising Techniques
Clause 9: Imitation

Advertiser: Automobile Dealer
Industry: Cars and motorized vehicles – General
Region: British Columbia
Media: Direct Marketing - Post
Complaint(s): 1
Description: Inside a direct mail envelope was a form entitled “Canada Automotive Rebate Program”. It included the Canadian flag in several places, and read: “This initiative is designed to stimulate the economy through automotive sales, while providing you with debt relief by matching your 2015 Tax Refund by up to $1000.” To claim the rebate, consumers were required to bring their Notice of Assessment to an identified dealership and present valid government I.D. displaying postal code. The brown envelope containing the form displayed the Canadian flag in the top left corner, together with the words “Canadian Consumer Benefits Information”.
Complaint: The complainant alleged the advertisement was designed to resemble an official Government of Canada document, when, in fact, it was an advertisement for an automobile dealer.
Decision: To Council, the use of the Canadian flag both on the outer envelope and on a form, which resembled an official-looking document from Canada Revenue Agency, contributed to creating the impression that it was an official government communication. In reality, it was an advertisement by an automobile dealer. Council, therefore, found that the advertisement was presented in a format or style that concealed its commercial intent, and that the advertisement imitated the copy and illustrations of another advertiser (an agency or department of the Government of Canada). The advertiser is not identified in this case summary because the advertisement was permanently withdrawn before Council’s adjudication.
Infraction: Clauses 2 and 9.