The Competition Bureau announced last week that it has entered into a Consent Agreement with Beiersdorf Canada Inc., the Canadian distributor of Nivea, regarding misleading claims associated with Nivea's "My Silhouette" product. According to the Competition Bureau, certain claims about the product, including that it can slim and reshape the body and cause a reduction of up to three centimetres on targeted areas, were false or misleading, and not based on adequate and proper testing. As part of the settlement, Beiersdorf has agreed to pay an administrative penalty of $300,000 plus $80,000 in costs, in addition to providing refunds to consumers.
The settlement follows on the heels of another high profile misleading advertising decision by the Commissioner of Competition pertaining to Bell Canada, which we described in a post of July 29. In that decision, the Commissioner concluded that Bell had misled consumers in its advertising regarding the prices consumers are required to pay for its TV, internet, home phone and wireless services. Bell Canada agreed to pay an administrative monetary penalty of $10 million, as well as revise its current and future advertising to ensure that consumers are no longer misled by the prices advertised and the fine-print disclaimers that accompany the advertising.
Given the recent activity by the Commissioner to exercise her powers under the Competition Act to crack down on misleading advertising, and further, given the steep penalties that can be imposed under the Act on companies found to have engaged in deceptive marketing ($10 million initially for a corporation and $15 million for repeat offenders), companies should take the time to carefully review their advertising and disclaimers prior to going to print, in order to ensure representations made to the public do not run afoul of the Act.