In Canada, the content of advertising and other commercial representations is regulated at both the federal and provincial levels.
Rules include general prohibitions on deceptive marketing practices under the federal Competition Act and provincial consumer protection laws, and under broadly applicable laws respecting consumer packaging and labelling. There are sector and activity-specific laws or legal provisions such as provincial laws respecting promotional contests, the federal Criminal Code prohibition on lotteries and games of chance, and federal laws respecting the advertising of tobacco products, alcoholic beverages, food products, drugs, medical devices and cannabis. As noted above, even Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) can impact the content of marketing messages.
A variety of sector and profession-specific codes of conduct, as well as social media sites’ rules, can apply, depending on the type of marketing.
The misleading advertising and labelling provisions enforced by the Competition Bureau of Canada prohibit making any deceptive representations for the purpose of promoting a product or a business interest and encourage the provision of sufficient information to allow consumers to make informed choices.
Prohibited advertising practices include:
- Inaccurate or misleading statements respecting the price, value or quality of a product or service;
- Falsely listing inflated “regular” prices so to offer the illusion of a better deal with respect to “discounted” pricing;
- Inaccurate or misleading claims regarding a product’s life, efficacy or performance;
- Knowingly selling or renting a product at a price higher than advertised;
- “Bait and switch” selling;
- Untrue, misleading or unauthorised use of test and testimonials;
- Lack of transparency with respect to “influencer” marketing; and
- In the case of contests, failure to disclose the number and value of prizes and other important information, such as the odds of winning.
The Competition Bureau of Canada publishes various guidelines respecting legal requirements relating to sale promotions on its “Misleading advertising and labelling” webpage.
Advertising Standards Canada – a national not-for-profit advertising self-regulatory body – has published the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, which includes rules relating to many types of advertising and marketing practices, including price claims, bait and switch advertising, comparative advertising and testimonials.