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Ad Complaints Reports - Q3 2007

Overview
The following are case summaries of consumer complaints about advertising that were upheld by Standards Councils for the Q3 2007. 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 In this section, the advertising in question was not withdrawn or amended before Council met to deliberate on the complaint.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, 2007 - September 30, 2007
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Canada Safeway Ltd.
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: British Columbia
Media: Point-of-Sale
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In-store advertising identified cherries as "CDN/USA Grown".
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the advertisement was inaccurate because the cherries were actually the product of Chile.
Decision: The advertiser acknowledged that the information was unintentionally incorrect. Based on the facts, Council found that the advertisement contained an inaccurate claim.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Canadian Tire Corporation, Ltd.
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: National
Media: Brochures/leaflets/flyers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a flyer, several cordless lawnmowers with interchangeable batteries were advertised.
Complaint: According to the complainant, the model of lawnmower the complainant wanted to buy was featured, among others, in the advertisement as having an interchangeable battery when, in fact, it did not.
Decision: Council found that the composition and layout of this advertisement would likely lead readers to believe that all of the illustrated cordless lawnmowers came with interchangeable batteries. The advertisement did not clearly indicate that the interchangeable battery was not an included feature of the 20" lawnmower at the advertised price. Council, therefore, found that the advertisement contained an inaccurate representation about a product and omitted relevant information. While the advertiser amended the advertisement to make it clear that the 20” model was not available with an interchangeable battery, the advertiser did not publish a corrective advertisement as required by the Code.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a) and (b).
Advertiser's Verbatim Statement: “Although we are not in agreement with the Council's decision, we are respectful of the process and, upon receiving the consumer’s complaint, we did amend the advertisement to alleviate the consumer’s concern with the original advertisement by specifying that the 20” Yardworks cordless mower does not come with a removable battery.”


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Flight Centre
Industry: Leisure services - Travel services
Region: British Columbia
Media: Print
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a print advertisement, the advertiser claimed “If you happen to find a cheaper available price, we’ll beat it”.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the advertisement was misleading. When shown evidence of a cheaper price for a flight offered by a competitor, the advertiser declined to honour its Price Beat Guarantee.
Decision: Although one would not know it from the advertisement, the guarantee was subject to several conditions. For example, the guarantee only applied to identical bookings purchased through a Flight Centre retail location in Canada; and the fare had to be of the same supplier, for the exact same product and with the same fare or pricing restriction. Council found, however, that none of these conditions was flagged, mentioned, or otherwise referenced in the print advertisement; nor were readers of the advertisement told where they might read the conditions that qualified the guarantee. In Council's opinion, readers and viewers are entitled to rely on the simple meaning conveyed by representations made in advertisements. This advertisement should have, but did not disclose there were any important limitations to the guarantee and where they could be found. Council found, therefore, that the advertisement was misleading; that it did not fully explain all conditions and limitations; and that it omitted relevant information.
Appeal: The original decision was confirmed on appeal by an Appeal Panel of Council.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a), 1(b) and 5.
Advertiser's Verbatim Statement: “Flight Centre is generally supportive of Advertising Standards Canada and the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards but believes it is imperative that consistency and procedural fairness be the hallmarks of any self-regulation. Flight Centre does not agree with this decision. It was impossible for our company to fully address the substantive merits of the complaint without being provided with all of the information upon which the Complaint was based. Despite request this information wasn’t received. Even in the absence of being afforded all of the information to properly respond: 1. The complainant’s interpretation of the conditions is not a sensible one having regard to a plain reading and ordinary usage of the English language. 2. The complainant was aware of the conditions having previously taken the benefit of the program. Flight Centre stands behind its customers, products and offerings including the Price Beat Guarantee and our new Perfect Holiday Promise. “
Comment by ASC: Notwithstanding the advertiser's statement to the contrary, before this complaint was heard by Council, and subsequently reheard by an Appeal Panel, this advertiser was provided both with all the complaint details pertaining the case, and the opportunity to prepare and file the advertiser's response to the complaint.


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: MDG Computers Canada Inc.
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: National
Media: Digital - Display ads
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A flat panel television was featured on the advertiser’s website at prices starting from $549.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the advertisement was misleading. Although the television screen, speakers and stand all appeared in the advertisement as one complete unit, in reality, the speakers and stand were extra.
Decision: The advertiser acknowledged that the advertisement should have stated that the speakers and stand were extra. Based on the acknowledged facts, Council found that advertisement was misleading and omitted relevant information.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a) and (b).


Clause 10: Safety

Advertiser: Bank of Montreal
Industry: Financial services
Region: National
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 2
Description: In a television commercial, two soccer players were shown heading a soccer ball back and forth between them while engaging in various day-to-day activities, including driving a car.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the driving scene in the commercial encouraged unsafe or dangerous behaviour.
Decision: To Council the commercial, which was broadcast during the FIFA U20 World Cup soccer tournament, would appeal to teenage boys and young men, many of whom would be novice drivers, strongly motivated to behave like professional athletes and try to replicate their behaviour. To Council, the driving scene appeared realistic and fun. If attempted in real life, it could result in serious harm. Council concluded, therefore, that the commercial displayed a disregard for safety by depicting a situation that might reasonably be interpreted as encouraging unsafe practices or acts.
Infraction: Clause 10.
Advertiser's Verbatim Statement: “BMO Bank of Montreal is proud to support soccer in Canada, and Toronto FC, Canada’s first team in Major League Soccer. Our commercial “Headers” was created to demonstrate the passion for the sport of soccer and the players’ desire never to give up heading the ball. Most of the situations were obviously exaggerated to create humour in the advertisement. Although we are not in agreement with the Council’s decision, we are respectful of the process. As a result we have responded to ASC concerns by removing the scene at issue from the commercial.”


Clause 10: Safety

Advertiser: Mitsubishi Motor Sales of Canada
Industry: Cars and motorized vehicles – General
Region: National
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 2
Description: Various racing scenes were featured in a television commercial for the Mitsubishi Lancer. The Dakar Rally appeared in several scenes. In another racing scene involving the Lancer, a woman was pictured standing in the middle of a road and dropping her arms as if to start a race. At the end of the commercial, a super appeared with the words “Certified Street Legal. We Think”.
Complaint: The complainants alleged that the commercial promoted street racing and unsafe driving.
Decision: In its response to Council, the advertiser contended that the depicted races were professional on-track competitions, not street races. The advertiser submitted that the super at the end of the commercial did not refer to street racing or dangerous behaviour, but rather to the fact that the Lancer has Mitsubishi’s rally heritage and performance DNA. To Council, however, the overall impression conveyed by the commercial was that it attractively depicted street racing. Contributing to this impression was the scene in which the woman was shown dropping her hands to start a race that did not appear to Council to be a professional race. Other elements contributing to the same conclusion by Council were the interior car shot of the car's driver wearing high-top sneakers rather than professional driving gear; the song lyrics (readily identifiable by a younger audience) heard at the end of the commercial; and the very large super – “Certified Street Legal. We Think”. Council found that the combination of these elements could appeal to impressionable young drivers who might be tempted to emulate the extreme driving portrayed in this commercial. After lengthy and careful deliberation, Council concluded that the commercial displayed a disregard for safety by depicting a situation that might reasonably be interpreted as encouraging unsafe practices or acts.
Appeal: The original decision was confirmed on appeal by an Appeal Panel of Council.
Infraction: Clause 10.
Advertiser's Verbatim Statement: “MMSCAN does not condone street racing or any other illegal or unsafe driving practice or act. Our Lancer TV commercial was intended to introduce our new product to target Canadians by showcasing our world-renowned rally and performance heritage. While the ASC’s decision is not in line with our real intention, we respect the integrity of ASC's self-regulation process and support adherence to ASC's Canadian Code of Advertising Standards. We presently have no plans to air the commercial again. If these plans change, we will amend the commercial to address the concerns identified by the ASC.”


Clause 10: Safety

Advertiser: Volkswagen Canada Inc.
Industry: Cars and motorized vehicles – General
Region: Quebec
Media: Magazines
Complaint(s): 2
Description: In a print advertisement, a woman was shown hugging a tree with a terrified look on her face after having quickly exited the vehicle in which she had been a passenger. The tagline read, “That’s what we call equipped for the autobahn”.
Complaint: That the advertisement promoted driving at excessive speeds.
Decision: Council agreed with the complainants, finding that overall impression conveyed by the advertisement was that there were no limits on how fast the vehicle could or should be driven. Council, therefore, concluded that the advertisement displayed a disregard for safety by depicting a situation that might reasonably be interpreted as encouraging unsafe practices or acts.
Infraction: Clause 10.




Non-Identified Cases - July 1, 2007 - September 30, 2007
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 2: Disguised Advertising Techniques

Advertiser: Media Company
Industry: Telecommunications - Other
Region: British Columbia
Media: Magazines
Complaint(s): 1
Description: Advertising material, not identified as such, appeared immediately below an article that discussed the very same kind of services that were offered in the advertising material.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the "article" was not editorial content; it was unattributed advertising for the same kind of services promoted in other advertisements.
Decision: The fact that the services described in the "editorial" appeared to be the same as those found in paid advertisements by the same service provider, conveyed the impression to Council that the so-called "editorial" was not editorial content. Council concluded that it was advertising and should have been prominently identified in the article as "advertising". Because it was not, Council upheld the complaint, finding that the article was, in fact, disguised advertising.
Infraction: Clause 2.


Clause 10: Safety

Advertiser: Manufacturer
Industry: Cars and motorized vehicles – General
Region: Quebec
Media: Magazines
Complaint(s): 4
Description: In a print advertisement, a man was shown smiling at his family who were in obvious physical discomfort after having driven in the advertised vehicle.
Complaint: That the advertisement promoted driving at excessive speeds.
Decision: Council found that the advertisement displayed a disregard for safety by depicting a situation that might reasonably be interpreted as encouraging unsafe practices or acts.
Infraction: Clause 10.


Clause 10: Safety

Advertiser: Retailer
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: Quebec
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In an advertisement for a recreational product, two boys were shown playing in a lake, neither of whom was wearing a lifejacket.
Complaint: That the commercial condoned unsafe and dangerous behaviour.
Decision: The fact that the boys were shown without lifejackets, and not under any adult supervision conveyed the impression to Council that the commercial displayed an indifference to water safety. Council, therefore, found that the commercial displayed a disregard for safety by depicting a situation that might reasonably be interpreted as encouraging unsafe practices or acts.
Infraction: Clause 10.