Have you ever been misled by an ad and wondered what can be done about it? We often receive questions from consumers about false or misleading advertising. As a provincial regulator, we are responsible for certain consumer transactions in BC but retail sales and advertising practices fall outside of our areas of authority. So, who can help? We have gathered some information from the Advertising Standards Canada website that talks about what qualifies as a misleading ad and how to lodge a complaint.
Who are they?
Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) is a national not-for-profit that is responsible for ensuring the integrity and viability of advertising through industry self-regulation. They administer the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, which sets the criteria for acceptable advertising and lays the groundwork for consumer complaints about ads.
What’s the point of the code?
The code was created in 1963 by the advertising industry and various stakeholders with the intent of promoting the professional practice of advertising. That way, consumers can maintain confidence in the ads they see and the brands they support.
What’s in the code?
The code contains 14 provisions that are expected to be adhered to “both in letter and in spirit” and advertisers must be able to support any claim they make when asked. These are some of the provisions that you can find in the code:
Accuracy and clarity. Relevant information must not be taken out of the ad in deceptive ways.
Professional or scientific claims. The ad cannot misrepresent scientific information or make it sound like they have a scientific basis that they do not have.
Testimonials. The testimonials must reflect the genuine opinion of those who had an experience with the product/service and must not be deceptive.
These provisions are updated and amended to stay relevant as the world of advertising changes. For example, with an increasing amount of celebrities and popular Instagram personalities beginning to advertise products on social media, there have been necessary changes to the rules.
These popular figures on social media (“influencers”) must now clearly and prominently disclose any “material connection” between themselves and the product or service that they post about, as stated by the ASC. This means when you see an Instagram post where the person is clearly endorsing a product, they should have an “#ad” or something similar visible in the post itself.
What happens to consumer complaints?
The ASC has independent Standards Councils that complete formal reviews of the complaints from consumers and ensure the review process fair and balanced. The Councils are made up of people from the advertising industry and the public who volunteer their time to support the consumer complaint process.
So, if you have a complaint about an ad that you have seen, the ASC will accept and respond to your complaint through their online complaint platform (or you can mail/fax it to them).
If they cannot accept the complaint because it doesn’t raise an issue with the code, the ASC will send a letter of explanation. If you’re not sure if your complaint will be accepted, you can take a look at the exclusions and non-reviewable complaints sections of the code.
If the Council determines that the ad is breaking the rules of the code, they will “uphold” the complaint and the advertiser will be asked to change or end the ad entirely. Either way, the Council will inform the consumer of the decision.
If you are unhappy with the decision from the Council you can request an appeal within 7 days of receiving it.
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21 thoughts on “Misleading advertisements: what can be done about it?”
Hi Leda, thank you for your message. I can’t say for sure if this complaint would raise an issue with the code. I might suggest you contact Advertising Standards Canada about this, as they are responsible for this area. Here is a link to their complaint page: http://www.adstandards.com/en/ConsumerComplaints/howToSubmitAComplaint.aspx. I hope this helps and best of luck!
Budget Blinds doesn’t offer anything low cost the saleswoman in Penticton, BC told me when I went to look into the opportunity to get affordable blinds. This must be false advertising! Budget means low cost and fits into a budget. Instead they only sell high cost blinds for wealthy people who aren’t struggling to afford soaring food and housing costs.
Tell me please, am I right or is there some loophole crap making this a complete waste of time and hope for social justice?
You can have a low budget and you can also have a high budget. Naming their store Budget blinds doesn’t mean you’re guaranteed low prices.
I don’t even know if this is legal. I don’t know who to ask or where to go with my complaint. Yesterday after reading their flyer which is distributed widely in local newspapers, I visited M&M Meats, to purchase chicken breast packages. the Cashier rang it up at the regular price. I objected, she indicted that the only way I could get the sale price was to give her my name, address, email address and telephone number. Is this even legal??? Don’t we have privacy laws in BC and Canada. Who should I go to?
Hi Ann, thank you for reaching out to us here! While this is not an area that we oversee, I think I might have a great referral for you. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of BC oversees certain privacy laws in the province and can also investigate complaints. Here is a link to their contact information: https://www.oipc.bc.ca/about/contact-us/. I hope this is helpful to you and best of luck!
My former employer is still advertising on his website that I work there. My complete bio and contact information are still on his website. I am now working for a competitor. I have asked him to remove my information and he has ignored these requests. Isn’t this false advertising? My name and reputation are my brand and I don’t want him taking any future prospects that call looking for me.
Hi Lisa, thanks for the question. I’m really not sure – this is not something we have any authority over. If you can’t work it out with your employer, I believe your only option would be to go through the courts, as I can’t think of any organization that would have authority over this kind of thing. I know this wasn’t the answer you were looking for. Best of luck
My internet provider claims that they only charge you once for the installation/modem and then there won’t be any other charges or fees, but they changed something with their network and now they want me to buy a new modem to keep getting service as the old one won’t recive their signal.
Do I need to pay for the new modem even though the one I already purchased from them is in perfect condition and they keep advertising it’s a one time fee only?
Hi P, thanks for your question. You may be interested in taking a look at the agreement or contract that you signed with your internet provider and confirm what it says (in the fine print) about replacement modems and who is responsible for paying for it. If you find that your contract states that you are not responsible for the price of a new modem, then ensure you make that clear when you talk to them and make sure to reference your contract. If you’re not able to resolve the issue with the person you’re speaking with, you may be interested in escalating the issue and requesting to speak to management (or the next highest person in command). Keep track of all your communication with your provider. If you still aren’t able to resolve the issue, you may want to submit a complaint to the Commission for Complaints for Telecom-Television Services (CCTS). They are a national and independent organization that can resolve customer complaints for wireless, phone, internet and TV services. You can submit a complaint here: http://www.ccts-cprst.ca/for-consumers/complaints/complaint-form/. Here’s a link to what information the CCTS will need from you in order to help you: https://www.ccts-cprst.ca/for-consumers/complaints/information-we-need-to-help-you/. It’s worth noting that they require info such as specific dates, steps you’ve taken to resolve the issue with your provider (including your provider’s response), copies of your contract, and what you believe would be a reasonable resolution for your complaint. I hope this is helpful to you and best of luck!
I am thinking to switch my wireless phone provider for my business use. There involve multiple lines. There is a promotion on a service provider to credit $200 per line and it shows online that we can keep our phone. I went to its store and ask sales directly and everything seems to be as shown on the online promotion. However, once we set up the account and follow all request procedures, the sales said that he can’t provide us the $200 credit per line since his system doesn’t allow him to do so with customer bring their own phones. This does not shown on the online promotion and the sale is not even aware of it until he log into their system and start setup the lines. The store sales asked us to call their business specialist directly to honor these credit.
We called the business specialist directly on the next business day. We were told we are able to receive the credit as per online promotion with $200 per line brought in from other service provider. In addition, he also give us additinal $100 per line as new customer. We set up and they will mail us the SIM cards in the next few days.
However, I receive a phone from the same Business specialist yesterday and he said that his manager and the system won’t allow him to honor these credits. After long discussion, he said his manager can only give us $100 per line credit plus waving the $35 initial setup fee per line.
My question is:
Can the service provider not follow what they advertise online?
The sales has not idea of the restriction until they log into their system and say differently for the credit they offered.
The business specialist honor all the credits and can withdraw back and said his manager or system won’t allow the credit because their system won’t allow them to do so even they already promised the credit?
Please share your thoughts with us on this matter and how we shall proceed on this.
Hi BK, thank you for explaining your situation in great detail. Consumer Protection BC does not oversee how retailers or phone providers advertise. As this blog post suggests, Advertising Standards Canada is a national not-for-profit that is responsible for ensuring the integrity and viability of advertising through industry self-regulation. They have a website that explains how you can make a complaint so click on this link to visit their site. It further gives you details about the code they oversee and the complaint process. I hope they will be able to point you in the right direction.
Save-On-Foods constantly advertises on their website and in their flyers that items are BOGO. And we all know that BOGO means buy one get one. However, more often than not save on’s buy one get one is actually buy 2 get 1 or buy 3 get one.
I’ve complain to them about this and they don’t seem to care yet I think it’s very misleading. It also creates a situation where if someone takes two of an item because they see the BOGO in big letters and think they just need to buy one and get the second one not only will they get charged for two, they won’t get the third one that they would got with the buy two get one free deal.
I’d like to see this incredibly deceptive practice stopped.
Hi Geoffrey, thank you for posting your concern here. As this blog post suggests, Advertising Standards Canada is responsible for ensuring the integrity and viability of advertising through industry self-regulation. You may want to contact them – here’s the website and the linked page specifically explains how to submit a complaint. I hope they will be able to point you in the right direction!
I saw a ad relating to a car in Car guru website. When I approached the dealer and talk to him over the phone the same amount was mentioned. But during the paper works he tweaked the amounts and increased to amount. Unfortunately the ad is taken down from the website, How can I proceed to get the ad information or prove that he indeed gave wrong information. Thank you
Hi Jijith, thank you for contacting us. Consumer Protection BC does not oversee car dealerships but The Vehicle Sales Authority (VSA) does. I’m not sure if the online website was associated with a licensed dealer but you may want to contact VSA and inquire about them. You can access their website and contact information here and I hope they will be able to point you in the right direction!
i wanted to go to the van opeing of moobys even atDublin Calling i email befor keep in mine i whant to van from the outher side of bc but so i made suer by email that if i got the 100 tickit that i wood diffalee beabile to by murch and exter when i was thair so ofcurse i belived him so i want i onley want becuse of the murch i cood by to prov i want and to fram for my home anyways i want it diffend like i was told or made to belive i told them befor i got the tickit that it was my burthday the day i wood be thair and i was coming along way and did not want to if thair was no murch for suer thair told me thair wood me moure then enuff thair a pearlee order enuff that thair were not going to let anyone done or run out ok so nouthing in my size so i ty to by something elis that i did not want then thair told me that thaier was no exter and that i was not abile to pay with cash ok no prob thair told me i cood order and have it sent to me ok so i want home it tuck me 3 days i emaile them wanting to by some murch from the event i want to thair calld me and email me telling me that thair wood send me some van moobys murch right away this was on march 11 to15 thair some emailing me since i have been tying to get a bill or a tracking but nouthen tell yeasaday thair emaild me telling me that now am not getting anything cus he has reshone to belive i was going to resale i never asked or wanten a hand out so now i spent and that cash to get thair did not get anything and now it too late mobbys was just a pop up and is now clousd so as far as i c this was a bite and swith
Hello and thank you for getting in contact with us! Can you please call us? We would like to get more details from you over the phone. Our toll-free number is 1.888.564.9963. Thank you!
i did call what a joke yous hug up on me
Hello and sorry to hear that the phone got disconnected. Can you please try again, we answer our hours of operation is Monday to Friday 8:30-4:15. Thank you.
the phone did not hug up i was told that my complant was not woth your time and then thair hug up that not lossing the phone call thats someone thair being read and not careing
Consumer Protection BC [CPBC] is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the BPCPA and is also empowered by another piece of legislation: the Business Practices and Consumer Protection Authority Act , SBC 2004, c 3. Part 10 of the BPCPA contains all inspecting and enforcement powers of CPBC, its inspectors, and the Director. This order can also be attached to property being held in trust for a person under investigation.