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Frequently Asked Questions about ASC’s Advertising Dispute Procedure

ASC receives queries from members of the advertising community about the Advertising Dispute Procedure (Procedure).

We hope the answers to the questions below will help to clarify this important Procedure. If you have additional questions, please contact Janet Feasby, Vice-President, Standards, at: janet.feasby@adstandards.com.

What mechanisms are available in Canada for advertisers wanting to contest the content of advertising by another advertiser?

  • Contact the other advertiser directly
  • File a complaint under ASC’s Advertising Dispute Procedure alleging a Code violation
  • Take legal action against the other advertiser
  • Complain to appropriate regulatory body, e.g. Competition Bureau, Canadian Food Inspection Agency or Health Canada

ASC’s Advertising Dispute Procedure (Procedure) is a confidential fee-based procedure designed to resolve disputes between advertisers. First developed in 1976 as the Trade Dispute Procedure, and regularly updated to keep it contemporary and relevant, the Procedure has generally proved to be faster and less costly than resolving disputes within the judicial system.

The Procedure is based on the provisions of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (Code), the principal instrument of advertising self-regulation in Canada.

What are the benefits of using the Procedure?

This process provides advertisers with a useful mechanism for resolving disputes expeditiously and at a lower cost than using the court system.

What should we consider before filing a complaint under the Procedure?

ASC recommends as first step before filing a complaint that the advertiser reach out to its competitor in an attempt to resolve the matter directly.

If that is unsuccessful, a detailed complaint, along with the applicable fee, can be filed with ASC.

Does the Procedure apply only to members of ASC?

The Procedure is open and accessible to members and non-members alike. The fee schedule is higher for non-members.

What is the basis for a complaint under the Procedure?

The basis for a complaint is the alleged breach of one of more clauses of the Code. To be accepted by ASC, the complaint cannot be based on, or include, an alleged breach of a statute or regulation, or a ruling in another jurisdiction.

Can a complaint be filed with ASC, as well as with a regulatory body?

No. ASC cannot proceed to handle an advertising dispute if the same matter is the subject of a complaint that has been filed with a Canadian regulatory body or court.

Why is the Procedure confidential?

The Canadian advertising industry has stated its preference that the entire process be kept confidential between the parties themselves and that the outcome not be publicly reported. From time-to-time, ASC polls its members who continue to affirm that confidentiality should remain a hallmark of the Procedure.

How many Advertising Disputes does ASC handle per year?

There is no predictable pattern. Over the past 8 years, ASC has had as many as 12 and as few as 3 disputes filed in a year.

What percentage of Advertising Disputes are resolved at the Mandatory Resolution Stage of the Procedure?

Of the 48 Advertising Disputes filed over the past 8 years, almost 80% were resolved during phase one, which is the Mandatory Resolution phase of the Procedure that involves negotiations directly between the disputing parties, under the supervision of ASC.

What happens if the parties cannot reach a satisfactory resolution?

The complaint will proceed to a Hearing where the matter is adjudicated by an Advertising Dispute Panel. The five member Advertising Dispute Panel comprises four senior, experienced advertising industry members and one member of the public. Often, the Panelists include members of ASC’s Standards Council, who are very experienced in adjudicating complaints under the Code.

How long does the process take?

The time lapse from the filing of a complaint until the scheduling of a Mandatory Resolution Meeting can take, at a minimum, approximately ten working days. If the dispute is adjudicated by an Advertising Dispute Panel, the process will take longer.

What happens if a defendant does not participate in the process?

If the defendant advertiser chooses not to attend and participate in the Mandatory Resolution Meeting, ASC will, at the complainant’s request, schedule a Hearing by the Panel on not less than 15 business days’ notice to both parties. The Hearing will proceed even if the defendant advertiser fails to appear and participate. At the Hearing, even in the absence of the defendant advertiser, the Panel will consider the evidence and arguments presented to it in accordance with the Procedure and render its decision.

What happens if a defendant advertiser ignores the decision of the Advertising Dispute Panel?

In the case of noncompliance with a decision of the Advertising Dispute Panel, ASC will publish a summary of the outcome of the case; publicly refer to the advertiser’s unwillingness to participate or comply; advise the exhibiting media of the non-compliance; and notify the Competition Bureau of the fact of noncompliance.

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