On September 21, 2009, the Competition Bureau (Bureau) published Enforcement Guidelines on Consumer Rebate Promotions (Guidelines). While these Guidelines do not have the force of law, they set out the Bureau’s approach to interpreting the false or misleading representation provisions of the Competition Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act and the Textile Labelling Act as they apply to consumer rebate offers and promotions. As such, any franchisor-developed rebate promotion should incorporate the suggestions contained in the Guidelines.
The Guidelines largely adopt the substance and form of the Bureau’s draft Informational Bulletin on Consumer Rebates that was released on March 31, 2009. The Guidelines also provide examples of five circumstances in which a rebate promotion could be considered to be a false or misleading representation. For a summary of these examples, please see the article in the May 2009 issue of the Osler Franchise Review on the Bureau’s draft rebate guidelines.
The Guidelines also recommend that manufacturers and retailers implement the following five best practices to reduce the risk of making a false or misleading representation:
- clearly and prominently disclose, in a manner that is likely to come to the consumer’s attention, all of the rebate’s conditions, limitations and exclusions that may conflict with the consumer’s general impression about the offered rebate (i.e., a submission deadline or a limit of one rebate per household);
- show the price that consumers will pay at the time of purchase;
- clearly indicate the amount of the rebate that may apply;
- clearly identify whether the rebate is mail-in or instant; and
- if the after-rebate price is stated in a mail-in rebate offer, clearly and prominently disclose, in a manner that is likely to come to the consumer’s attention, that this price is subject to conditions (i.e., the price can only be obtained if the rebate is successfully redeemed).