Quebec Law and its Weaknesses
Marketing Techniques Excluded from the Law
The Regulation respecting the application of the Consumer Protection Act lists a number of exemptions to the Act. In other words, some advertising to children is still allowed. This is the case in particular for:
- store windows and displays;
- containers, wrappings and labels;
- announcements for shows intended for children; and
- advertisement included in certain children’s magazines.
As it happens, some of these exemptions are used today to evade the spirit of the law in order to reach young people. This is the case in particular for the store displays, containers, wrappings and labels of numerous food products that abound with advertising (e.g., amusing images, characters, cross-promotions involving TV or movie heroes, direct allusions to fun or play on packaging, funny names, children’s games or riddles, unusual shapes/colours/flavours, childlike display units in stores).
Given the numerous health problems related to a poor diet and knowing that 89% of food products targeted at children in Canadian supermarkets are of poor nutritional value , the exemption regarding this type of advertising should be reconsidered in light of its negative influence on children’s eating habits.
 Elliott, C. (2008) Assessing « fun foods » : nutritional content and analysis of supermarket foods targeted at children. Obesity reviews, 9, 368–377.
Support for Regulation from Quebec Population
SOM survey conducted on behalf of the Weight Coalition in April 2007
- 90% of Quebecers believe that advertising directed at children should be regulated.
- 60% would like a more stringent application of the CPA where advertising to children under the age of 13 is concerned.
Commercial advertising directed at children under the age of 13 is prohibited by virtue of sections 248 and 249 of the Quebec Consumer Protection Act.
To determine whether or not an advertisement is directed at children, account must be taken of the context of its presentation as defined by the following three criteria:
- Nature and destination of the product advertised (What? For whom?)
- Manner of presenting the advertisement (How?)
- Time and place it is shown (When? Where?)
The application guide for sections 248 and 249 explains these criteria and gives examples for illustrative purposes.
Difficult Complaint Process
- Consumers who would like to lodge a complaint with the OPC must do so by telephone from Monday to Friday during regular work hours. This can have a dissuasive effect on them.
- It is necessary to provide the OPC with a number of key pieces of evidence for a complaint to be considered (e.g., photos, bills, store address, date, hour, station broadcasting advertisement).
Hence, the complaints procedure should be made easier and more accessible to allow anyone to report illegal practices by industry at any time.