The Lexpert list of advertising laws

Companies should follow a list of advertising laws as part of good business practice. Find out what these laws are in this article
The Lexpert list of advertising laws

Beyond the fun and colours of ad campaigns and marketing plans are the laws which mandate its allowed content or form. For this, advertising agencies and companies that produce the advertised or marketed products are advised to maintain a list of advertising laws. The reasons for maintaining this list are:

  • to keep up with any amendments
  • to prevent any violations and sanctions
  • to maintain confidence among the consumers

In this article, we’ve listed advertising laws that companies and organizations should be aware of. We’ve also included a short overview for each.  

List of advertising laws in Canada

Here’s a list of advertising laws in Canada, which are found at the federal level or provincial/territorial level:

  1. Canadian Code of Advertising Standards
  2. Laws against false advertising or deceptive marketing
    • Competition Act
    • Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)
    • Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
  3. Laws regulating digital advertising
  4. Laws when advertising to children

These laws are summed up below; however, the advice of an advertising and marketing lawyer is still the best explainer for the laws under this list. As an introduction to these laws, read the Lexpert guide to Canadian advertising law.

1. Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards guides companies on how to practice advertising and marketing. It is administered by the Advertising Standards Canada (Ad Standards). These Canadian advertising standards have 14 Code provisions:

Accuracy and Clarity

Disguised Advertising Techniques

Price Claims


Bait and Switch


       Comparative Advertising        




Professional or Scientific Claims





Superstitions and Fears

Advertising to Children


Advertising to Minors         


Unacceptable Depictions and Portrayals


Ad Standards clarifies that the Code is not meant to replace any advertising law enforced by the federal or provincial/territorial government but complements them instead.

When the Code is violated, concerned consumers or competing advertisers can lodge complaints before the Ad Standards. Consumer complaints are reviewed and judged by the Standards Council or the le Conseil des normes. Complaints between advertisers are resolved through the Advertising Dispute Procedure.

2. Laws against false advertising or deceptive marketing

At the federal level, there are three laws (discussed below) that prohibit certain acts which are considered as false advertising or deceptive marketing practices. Since these laws’ applications may overlap, it’s important for companies to regularly consult with an advertising and marketing lawyer.

Competition Act

Under the Competition Act, all material representations which are false or misleading, or bordering on deceptive marketing practices, are illegal. The prohibited acts may be divided according to the type of action and penalty provided by the Act, which can either be criminal or civil in nature.

Here’s a list of marketing tactics to avoid under the Competition Act:

Deceptive sales tactics:

  • deceptive telemarketing
  • bait and switch selling
  • sale of a product above its advertised price

Misleading promotions:

  • deceptive notices of winning a prize
  • contests that do not disclose required information
  • misleading warranties and guarantees

False advertising:

  • representations not based on adequate and proper tests
  • false or misleading ordinary selling price representations
  • untrue, misleading, or unauthorized use of tests and testimonials

Unethical marketing practices:

  • double ticketing
  • schemes of pyramid selling
  • unfair or undisclosed compensation claims in multi‑level marketing

Violation of these prohibitions may be filed with the Competition Bureau. However, the Bureau warns the public that it’s not a consumer protection agency, and that it does not rule on disputes among parties (e.g., contractual disputes, billing problems, store returns, etc.).

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)

The CASL prohibits companies from sending unsolicited electronic messages (spam) without the receiver’s consent (whether express or implied). But aside from this, the CASL provides for more offences, such as:

  • promoting products or services online through false or misleading representations
  • sending an electronic message to a different receiver, without the receiver’s consent, by altering its transmission data
  • installing software on an electronic device, without the owner’s consent, including the unconsented updates and upgrades on an installed software
  • collecting personal information by illegally accessing a computer system or electronic device
  • harvesting e-mails without the consent of the owner

Penalties for these violations may include fines or criminal sanctions under the CASL, and even the Competition Act. These penalties are enforced by these agencies:

  • Competition Bureau
  • Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
  • Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC)

To know more about CASL, watch this short video:

If you’re from Montréal or nearby areas, reach out to the best advertising and marketing lawyers in Québec for a comprehensive explanation of CASL.

Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)

In relation to the advertising and marketing practices of companies, there are times when they will come across personal information from their consumers. In collecting, using, and disclosing this personal information, the PIPEDA is there to guide companies.

The PIPEDA requires a person’s consent before their personal information may be collected, used, or disclosed. This works similarly with the CASL, which is strong in requiring prior consent before any of these commercial activities may be done.

3. Laws regulating digital advertising

In most cases, the laws mentioned above (i.e., the Competition Act, the CASL, and the PIPEDA) also regulate digital advertising in Canada. As such, online advertising and marketing strategies must also comply with these laws.

As for federal institutions, a recent implementation notice was released when it comes to their digital advertising. Privacy Implementation Notice 2024-01 guides federal institutions on protecting the privacy of individuals when purchasing advertising for placement on digital platforms.

In addition, the OPC released its Guidelines on Privacy and Online Behavioural Advertising. This helps organizations that are involved in online behavioural advertising to make sure that their advertising practices comply with these advertising laws.

4. Laws when advertising to children

Although there is no specific statute which directly addresses advertising to children, those in the above-mentioned list of advertising laws still apply. For instance, the following provisions under the Code of Advertising Standards state that:

4.1 Advertising to Children must not:

  • exploit the children’s trust, lack of experience, or their sense of loyalty
  • present information or illustrations that might result in the children’s physical, emotional, or moral harm 

4.2 Advertising to Minors:

  • prohibited products to minors must not be advertised to them in an appealing way
  • people featured in advertisements for prohibited products to minors must be adults, and must be clearly seen to be adults

Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children

In addition to these provisions from the Code, Ad Standards also has a separate regulation for child-directed advertising in the broadcast media. This is called the Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children.

Provincial laws on advertising to children

Some provinces have also included in their laws certain provisions regulating advertisements directed at children. For example, Québec’s Consumer Protection Act entirely prohibits commercial advertising practices to children under 13 years old.

Adhering to advertising laws is good business

A list of advertising laws is in place to protect consumers against unethical and illegal marketing practices. These laws cover everything from advertising standards to spam and advertising to children. Canadian companies can benefit by adhering to these laws, ensuring that their marketing practices are ethical and consumer centric.

Following these guidelines helps avoid legal pitfalls. It also fosters trust among consumers which, in the end, is the best form of advertising.

For a lengthier explanation of the laws mentioned in this list of advertising laws, consult with the best advertising and marketing lawyers in Canada as ranked by Lexpert.