On June 6, 2012, NDP MP Peter Julian introduced Bill C-430, An Act to Amend the Competition Act and the Food and Drugs Act (Child Protection Against Advertising Exploitation). The private member’s bill would amend the civil misleading advertising section of the Competition Act to prohibit the direction of any advertising or promotion, for commercial purposes, at persons under 13 years of age. The proposed test for such advertising would take into account the manner, time and place of the ad and the nature and intended purpose of the product or business being promoted. The bill also clarifies that advertising may be found to be directed at persons under 13 even though it is presented in printed material intended for people 13 and older, in broadcast during air time intended for persons 13 and older, or in any manner intended for persons both over and under 13. Finally, the criminal misleading advertising section of the Act would be amended to deem all such advertising to be a “recklessly made representation that is false or misleading in a material respect”, and so child-directed advertising would also violate the criminal misleading advertising law.
Child-directed advertising is already subject to a patchwork of regulatory tools. The Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children restricts broadcast advertisers from pressuring children to buy or use their products, among other restrictions. Advertising Standards Canada’s voluntary Canadian Code of Advertising Standards states that advertising directed at children “must not exploit their credulity, lack of experience or their sense of loyalty…”. In Quebec, the Consumer Protection Act and associated regulations impose significant restrictions on the content and presentation of child-directed advertising.
Bill C-430 has not yet received second reading, and it is unlikely to be passed in its current form. However, the bill portends an increased focus on child-directed advertising, and could lead to increased uncertainty in an already hazy area of law and policy.