CNBC recently reported that a father of three kids in Canada sued McDonald’s for illegally promoting their Happy Meals to children. He alleged that such promotions go against Quebec’s advertising laws. Because the Consumer Protection Office of Quebec bans such advertising to kids under 13.
Canadian father claims McDonald’s is breaking rules under the consumer protection laws
Antonio Bramante has recently filed a lawsuit in court against McDonald’s in Canada. According to the court documents, he claimed for a compensation from the fast food chain for his purchases made over the past five years. He goes to a McDonald’s restaurant along with his young children for at least every two weeks. However, he’s not happy with the marketing strategy of the company. In his opinion, the company should stop promoting happy meals and toys to children in-store.
His attorney, Joey Zukran, further stated in his lawsuit that the toys that are included in the happy meals are usually promoted with the launch of the kids’ movies. Since they are often part of a series, it prompts his family to visit the restaurant again to complete the set. Moreover, the toys are displayed in the stands at the eye level of a young kid. So, the kids who visit the restaurant pressurize their parents to buy them each time. Zukran claims that this level of marketing and advertisement is against laws described in the Consumer Protection Act of the province.
CNBC contacted the spokesperson for McDonald’s Canada via email regarding the claims made by Bramante. In his response, he told CNBC that the company has received the ruling and they are examining it carefully. He further added that they are aware of their obligations under the advertising laws of Quebec. However, he reiterated that they do not believe this class action has merit.
The spokesperson for McDonald’s stated that they are proud of their long-standing relationship with the families in Quebec who have been visiting the restaurant for more than 45 years.
As we look into the Consumer Protection Act of Quebec, advertising to children under 13 has been banned in the province since the 1970s. There are three exceptions to the Act: advertising in children’s magazines, advertising during entertainment events for children, and advertising via displays, labels, packaging, store windows, and containers.
When CNBC discussed the exceptions with the attorney, he told them that the toy displays by McDonald’s are not covered by this exception. Because the company operates restaurants instead of stores. He further added that even if their restaurants are considered as stores, their advertisement should not directly provoke a kid to buy those goods or services. As it is stated in the act.
Zukran also claimed that his firm had got a huge response from other consumers as well. He requested that if anyone had bought a Happy Meal in Quebec since November 2013, they can be a part of this action. Although he did not give a specific number but he claims that the website crashed due to the immense response of people received on the site.
He also pointed to the long-running “McLibel” case of the 1980s and 1990s. At that time, McDonald’s sued the activists who were part of the London Greenpeace group. They produced a leaflet with a title of: “What’s wrong with McDonald’s — everything they don’t want you to know.” However, most of the claims mentioned in the leaflet were rejected by Justice Bell who was the judge at that time.
He further elaborated that they were not against the nutritional value of the Happy Meals by McDonald’s. What they are targeting here is the illegal marketing tactic to incite children under 13. Zukran further explained that the main reaction they were receiving in Canada was that the parents could just say ‘no’. But in the British case, Justice Bell actually agreed to the point that the advertisement was intentionally made like this to pressure kids to pressurize their parents. While on the other hand, the company’s spokesperson denied any wrongdoings. He was of the opinion that they would introduce their new menu goals by 2022. They also released a press release in which they stated that their marketing strategy already met the local advertising pledges.