Effective February 11, 2019, Advertising Standards Canada (Ad Standards Canada) will implement a new Advertising Dispute Procedure (the Procedure) to govern complaints between competitors for  alleged breaches of the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards (the Code). The new Procedure (formerly known as the Trade Disputes Procedure) is designed to further streamline the resolution process for advertising complaints between competitors. Key elements of the Procedure include: 

  • New pre-conditions for accepting a complaint. Ad Standards Canada will not accept a complaint from an advertiser unless it is satisfied that: (i) the complainant has made a good faith attempt to resolve the dispute directly with the defendant advertiser; (ii) there are reasonable grounds to proceed with the alleged Code violation(s), and the advertising at issue has not been excluded from adjudication; and (iii) the complaint is accompanied by the applicable fee. 
  • Voluntary resolution meetings.  For a small fee, either party may ask Ad Standards Canada to hold a voluntary resolution meeting between the complainant and defendant advertiser to resolve the complaint. The meeting will be moderated by Ad Standards Canada. A voluntary resolution meeting will only occur if both parties agree. Failure to agree to attend the resolution meeting will not prejudice the party in adjudicating the complaint. 
  • Three member adjudication panel. Under the new Procedure, complaints will be reviewed by a three member Adjudication Panel (the Panel). The Panel will be chaired by a lawyer and two members selected from a roster of industry professionals. 
  • No in-person hearing or appeal. In contrast to the old procedure, no live hearings will be held. The Panel will only consider written submissions from the parties. No appeal will be permitted from the decision of the Panel.
  • Timelines. Ad Standards Canada will acknowledge the complaint within three working days of receipt. Ad Standards Canada will confirm whether the complaint has been accepted or declined. The defendant’s response, complete with all evidence, is due no later than 10 working days following a voluntary resolution meeting or 10 working days following receipt of the complaint if no resolution meeting is held. The complainant will then have five working days after receipt of the defendant’s response to submit a reply following which the defendant will have five working days to submit a further reply. No further submissions will be allowed unless specifically requested by Ad Standards Canada. The Panel’s decision will be communicated to the parties within 10 working days after the Panel received the completed adjudication file from Ad Standards Canada. 
  • Confidentiality and case summaries. Proceedings under the new Procedure will remain confidential. However, Ad Standards Canada intends to publish anonymized case summaries to provide clarity about practices that are considered to contravene the Code. Consistent with the previous procedure, failure to comply with the Panel’s decision may result in Ad Standards Canada publicly identifying the parties.
  • Reduced fees.  Fees under the new Procedure are reduced from the previous procedure which could cost upwards of $15,000 for a hearing. The new adjudication fee is payable by the complainant and partially refundable (in the amount of $3,500) in the event the complaint is settled before the panel receives the parties’ submissions. The voluntary resolution meeting fee is shared equally by the complainant and the defendant while the complaint filing fee is paid by the complainant.
Member fee (+Tax) Non-member fee (+Tax)
Complaint filing fee (non-refundable) $1,500 $2,000
Voluntary resolution meeting fee (non-refundable) $2,000 $3,000
Adjudication fee $7,000 $8,500

Questions regarding the interpretation or application of the Procedure can be directed, without cost, to Ad Standards Canada.

Link: Ad Dispute Procedure – 2019