Ad Standards announces new process for handling competitor advertising complaints.

Effective Monday, February 11, 2019, Ad Standards (ASC) will implement a new process for handling complaints between competitor advertisers.  While ASC has offered a confidential procedure to deal with such disputes since 1976, it recently conducted a review to determine if the dispute resolution service could be provided in a more efficient, cost-effective and practical manner.  ASC believes that its new competitor Advertising Dispute Procedure satisfies all of those objectives.

The new procedure will consist of the following elements:

  1. As a pre-condition to filing a complaint with ASC, the parties must have engaged in a good faith attempt to resolve the complaint. As part of this resolution process, the parties may request that ASC facilitate a voluntary resolution meeting.
  2. Assuming that the parties are not able to come to a mutually agreeable solution to their dispute, the parties may then make written submissions to a 3-person ASC panel composed of a chair who will be a lawyer with advertising/marketing law experience and two other panellists drawn from the advertiser, advertising agency or media sectors. There will no longer be live hearings.
  3. There will still be fees payable to participate in this process. However, given the new simplified procedure, the fees for this service are significantly less than those previously charged by ASC.

Panel decisions will continue to be confidential although ASC may publish brief case summaries, without identifying the parties.  No appeal will be allowed from a panel’s decision.  ASC expects that the new process will result in a complaint being processed within thirty-two to thirty-seven working days.

ASC is a not-for-profit Canadian advertising industry self-regulatory body founded by the Canadian advertising industry to foster ethical advertising practices.  Its Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (Code) sets out ASC’s criteria for what ASC believes constitutes acceptable advertising in Canada.  The Code coupled with the revamped Advertising Dispute Procedure is expected to provide Canadian advertisers with an improved confidential dispute resolution mechanism as an alternative to using Canada’s judicial system.