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Ad Complaints Reports - Q4 2007

Overview
The following are case summaries of consumer complaints about advertising that were upheld by Standards Councils for the Q4 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 In this section, the advertising in question was not withdrawn or amended before Council met to deliberate on the complaint.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 - Oct 1, 2007 - December 31, 2007
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Alberta Livestock Industry Development Fund
Industry: Non-commercial - Other
Region: Alberta
Media: Digital - Display ads
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In an advertisement on a website entitled “What’s on your plate?” A question was posed – “Is pig manure good for the environment?” The answer “Yes” followed in a paragraph that explained the advertiser’s rationale for the answer.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the claim was misleading. According to the complainant, runoff from intensive livestock operations can adversely affect water bodies and produce other negative environmental effects.
Decision: In reviewing the answer to the question posed in the advertisement, it appeared to Council that the advertisement contained only generic information about manure from livestock in general, but not specifically about manure from pigs and its effects on the environment. As well, the overall impression conveyed by the advertisement to Council was that pig manure was unquestionably good for the environment in all respects. Council did not find that the advertiser had supplied adequate support to make such an unqualified and absolute claim. Council, therefore, concluded that the advertisement contained inaccurate claims.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Army and Navy Stores
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: Alberta
Media: Brochures/leaflets/flyers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A tent was advertised at a special price in a flyer.
Complaint: The complainant was told by the store’s sales staff that there was a limit of one tent per customer.
Decision: Because the advertisement did not disclose the fact that quantities were limited to one tent per customer, Council concluded that the advertisement omitted relevant information and did not present all pertinent details of the offer in a clear and understandable manner.
Infraction: Clauses 1(b) and (c).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Canada Safeway
Industry: Food
Region: British Columbia
Media: Newspapers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a newspaper advertisement, corn-on-the cob was advertised as “locally grown”.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the claim was inaccurate. The corn was actually grown in Manitoba, not in British Columbia.
Decision: The advertiser explained in its response to Council, that due to an inadvertent error, the advertisement was placed in the North Shore News. Based on the acknowledged facts, Council found that the advertisement contained an inaccurate claim.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: Alberta
Media: Direct Marketing - Other
Complaint(s): 2
Description: A personalized letter, which appeared to originate from a co-worker of the recipient, promoted Canadian Tire gift cards as rewards and incentives for other employees.
Complaint: The complainants alleged that this promotional material was misleading because, in fact, it originated from the advertiser, and not a co-worker.
Decision: The direct-mail letter was designed and written so as to appear to have been sent by an employee or co-worker of the recipient. In Council's opinion, this was advertising that was presented in a manner that concealed its commercial intent. It also conveyed a misleading impression about the source (i.e., sponsor) of the advertisement.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a) and 2.


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Canadian Tire Corporation, Limited
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: Ontario
Media: Brochures/leaflets/flyers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A pantry with wood-grain finish was advertised at a special price. The “Rubbermaid” logo was featured in the advertisement immediately under the price claim and adjacent to the photograph of the pantry. At the bottom of the same advertisement, a similar-looking white pantry was shown at a lower price.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the advertisement was misleading. The white pantry was, in fact, smaller, and was not made by Rubbermaid.
Decision: Council found there was nothing to indicate that the larger, wood-grain pantry and the smaller, but similar, white pantry were different products made by different manufacturers. In Council's opinion, readers could reasonably assume that both pantries were made by Rubbermaid because its logo was so prominently featured in the advertisement.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a) and 1(b).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Extreme Fitness
Industry: Leisure Services-Entertainment, sports and leisure
Region: Ontario
Media: Brochures/leaflets/flyers
Complaint(s): 2 about 2 similar advertisements
Description: Advertisements for two different fitness clubs advertised by the same advertiser used the same interior photographs of the clubs and their facilities.
Complaint: Both complainants alleged that the photographs of the clubs and their facilities could not have been taken at, and bore no resemblance to, the clubs identified in the advertisements.
Decision: Because the text in both advertisements specifically referred to an identified club, and not to the chain of Extreme Fitness clubs, readers of the flyers were entitled to believe that the photographs accurately depicted the facilities, the equipment and look of the club at the location being advertised. Since that was not the case, Council concluded that the advertisements contained inaccurate representations about a product and omitted relevant information.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a) and 1(b).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Home Outfitters
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: National
Media: Brochures/leaflets/flyers
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a flyer the advertiser offered a $20 money card for each $50 spent during the month of September.
Complaint: The complainant alleged there was nothing in the flyer to indicate that additional money had to be spent in order to redeem the $20 money card.
Decision: Although in-store signage disclosed that one $20 money card could be redeemed with every $50 spent between October 8th and October 28th, this information was missing from the flyer. Council accepted the advertiser's submission that this important information had been inadvertently, not intentionally, omitted from the flyer. However, because pertinent details were missing Council concluded that the advertisement omitted relevant information and did not state all details of the offer in a clear and understandable manner.
Infraction: Clauses 1(b) and 1(c).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: MDG Computers Canada Inc.
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: National
Media: Newspapers
Complaint(s): 3
Description: The advertiser offered a free videogame system with the purchase of a “+ model” notebook or desktop computer.
Complaint: Complainants alleged that it was not clear from the advertising how a buyer could qualify for the free videogame system, or that the free video game systems were refurbished, rather than new.
Decision: The advertiser claimed the offer was available only in connection with 2008 “+models”. However, Council could not determine from the advertising which products qualified as “+model” purchases. Furthermore, the fact that the free video game systems were refurbished, rather than new was important information that should have been disclosed in the advertisement. Council concluded that the advertisement omitted relevant information, and did not state all pertinent details of the offer in a clear and understandable manner.
Infraction: Clauses 1(a) and 1(b).




Non-Identified Cases - Oct 1, 2007 - December 31, 2007
Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Entertainment Facility
Industry: Leisure Services-Entertainment, sports and leisure
Region: Ontario
Media: Digital - Display ads
Complaint(s): 1
Description: On its website in October 2007, the advertiser offered a complimentary jacket with the purchase of tickets within a specified time period. According to the advertising, the jacket would be “available for pick up soon.”
Complaint: After checking the website over a two month period, the complainant was told by the advertiser that the jacket would not now be available until the spring of 2008. The complainant alleged the advertising was misleading.
Decision: The advertiser claimed that delivery of the jacket by the supplier had been unexpectedly delayed until April 2008. Based on the acknowledged facts, Council upheld the complaint, finding that the advertisement contained inaccurate information and omitted relevant information.
Infraction: Clause 1(a) and (b).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Financial Service Provider
Industry: Financial services
Region: National
Media: Direct Marketing - Other
Complaint(s): 1
Description: A credit card was promoted in a direct mail advertisement in which no mention was made that an annual fee would be charged. The annual fee requirement was only disclosed on the advertiser’s website.
Complaint: That the advertising was misleading.
Decision: The advertiser acknowledged the advertisement should have stated, but did not, that an annual fee was associated with the product. Based on the facts, Council concluded that the advertisement omitted relevant information, and did not state all pertinent details of an offer in a clear and understandable manner.
Infraction: Clauses 1(b) and (c).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Retailer
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: National
Media: Digital - Display ads
Complaint(s): 1
Description: Shoes were described on the advertiser’s website as being “black patent leather.”
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the advertising was misleading because the shoes were actually made of man-made materials.
Decision: The advertiser acknowledged that, inadvertently, incorrect information was included in the advertisement. Based on the facts, Council concluded that the advertisement contained an inaccurate claim.
Infraction: Clause 1(a).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Retailer
Industry: Retail (Supermarkets, Dept stores etc.)
Region: National
Media: Print
Complaint(s): 1
Description: Four free product samples were offered by the advertiser as part of a promotion.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the advertising did not state that a minimum $30 order was required to obtain the “free” samples.
Decision: From the wording of the advertisement, it was not clear that consumers had to spend anything in order to receive the samples. Council, therefore, concluded that the advertisement omitted relevant information and did not state all pertinent details of an offer in a clear and understandable manner.
Infraction: Clauses 1(b) and 1(c).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Telecommunications Services Provider
Industry: Other
Region: National
Media: Digital - Display ads
Complaint(s): 1
Description: Telecommunication services were advertised on the Internet. The advertisement failed to mention that a particular advertised feature of the service was not available in all areas.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the advertising was misleading.
Decision: Council agreed with the complainant that it wasn't made clear in the advertisement that an important feature was available in some, but not all, service areas. Council concluded that the advertisement omitted relevant information.
Infraction: Clause 1(b).


Clause 1: Accuracy and Clarity

Advertiser: Transportation Company
Industry: Leisure services - Travel services
Region: National
Media: Digital - Display ads
Complaint(s): 1
Description: The advertiser offered 50% off the cost of its travel within Canada.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the advertising misrepresented the price reduction.
Decision: In its response to Council, the advertiser stated that the reduction was from its "regular" prices. Council found that this fact was not clearly communicated by the advertising. Nor was it obvious to Council what the so-called “regular” fares were, or where consumers could find them quoted. Council concluded, therefore, that the advertisement omitted relevant information, and did not clearly and understandably provide all details of an offer.
Infraction: Clauses 1(b) and (c).


Clause 10: Safety

Advertiser: Automobile Manufacturer
Industry: Cars and motorized vehicles – General
Region: National
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a commercial that highlighted special features of a vehicle, the advertised model was shown being driven at night, through wet city streets at what appeared to be excessive speeds.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the depicted situation encouraged unsafe or dangerous driving.
Decision: The overall impression conveyed by this commercial was that the advertised vehicle was capable of being driven fast and aggressively in an urban setting under poor driving conditions. Based on this impression, Council concluded that the commercial displayed a disregard for safety by depicting situations that might reasonably be interpreted as encouraging unsafe practices or acts.
Infraction: Clause 10.


Clause 14: Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals

Advertiser: Service Provider
Industry: Leisure services - Travel services
Region: Quebec
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 1
Description: In a commercial, an enraged woman was depicted berating and behaving in a physically aggressive manner towards her spouse.
Complaint: The complainant alleged that the commercial depicted domestic violence.
Decision: Council found that the depiction in the commercial of the woman’s behaviour appeared in a realistic manner to condone physical and psychological abuse, as well as to demean and denigrate men.
Infraction: Clauses 14(b) and (c).


Clause 14: Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals

Advertiser: Sports/Entertainment Organization
Industry: Leisure Services-Entertainment, sports and leisure
Region: British Columbia
Media: Audio Visual - Traditional televison
Complaint(s): 2
Description: In a television commercial, a man was shown in an enclosed environment violently pushing and knocking over another man who was blocking his way.
Complaint: The complainants alleged that the commercial condoned violent behaviour.
Decision: To Council, the depiction of physical aggression in this commercial did not appear fantastical or exaggerated to the extent that it was not to be believed, but rather, was an all too realistic depiction of a violent act. Council agreed with the complainant that the commercial appeared to condone violence.
Infraction: Clause 14(b).