What are Ontario’s advertising laws?

Know more about the advertising laws of Ontario, including the methods and strategies allowed under federal and provincial law
What are Ontario’s advertising laws?

As one of the largest and populous areas in Canada, implementing advertisements and marketing strategies in Ontario can give companies a better edge for their products. For consideration among these companies are Ontario’s advertising laws, which can have a huge impact on what they can and shouldn’t do.

What are Ontario’s advertising laws?

Laws governing advertising and marketing regulate how industry players, such as companies and advertisers, can implement their strategies and plans. Aside from dictating what can or cannot be advertised or marketed, it also provides for the allowed practices, strategies, and tactics.

Advertising laws in Ontario can come from different sources:

  • Federal advertising laws:
    • Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)
    • Competition Act
    • Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
  • Provincial advertising laws:
    • Government Advertising Act, 2004
    • Consumer Protection Act, 2002
    • Human Rights Code
    • Laws and regulations on advertising alcohol, lottery and gaming, and cannabis
  • Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

Each law outlines:

  • who its covered entities are
  • what the proper advertising and marketing methods are
  • what the penalties are in case of violation

Watch the video as a backgrounder on Canadian advertising laws in general:

For more details on Ontario’s advertising laws, reach out to any of the Lexpert-ranked best advertising and marketing lawyers in Ontario.

Federal advertising laws that apply to Ontario

In addition to Ontario’s advertising laws, here are federal advertising laws and what they require when companies advertise in the province:

Government Advertising Act, 2004

The Government Advertising Act (GAA) regulates advertisements published by Ontario’s government offices. These government offices include government ministries, Cabinet Office, and the Office of the Premier with the exclusion of other government agencies.

The GAA covers government advertisements that are:

  • published in newspapers or magazines
  • broadcast on radio or television
  • displayed on a billboard
  • printed in materials to be distributed to households
  • published on the Internet through “first click” of any hyperlink, Quick Response (QR) code, or similar way of pointing to a website

The GAA provides that advertisement items must be approved by the Auditor General before they can be published. Also, the advertising items from Ontario’s government must conform to the following standards:

  • it must be a reasonable means of achieving at least one of the following:
    • to inform the public of government policies, programs, or services
    • to inform the public of their legal rights and responsibilities
    • to encourage or discourage specific social behaviour
    • to promote Ontario as a good place to live, work, invest, study, or visit
    • to promote any Ontario’s economic activity or sector
  • it must state that it is paid for by the government of Ontario
  • it cannot include the name, image, or voice of any member of Ontario’s Executive Council or Legislative Assembly; except where the primary audience is outside Ontario
  • it cannot be partisan in the opinion of the Auditor General
  • its primary objective must not be to foster:
    • a positive impression of the governing party; or
    • a negative impression of those who are critical of the government

Consumer Protection Act, 2002

Aside from being part of Ontario’s advertising laws, the Consumer Protection Act (CPA) of the province also regulates other commercial transactions. But particularly about advertising and marketing, the CPA provides for the prohibited misleading advertising rules.

Human Rights Code

Certain provisions of the Human Rights Code (HRC) add to Ontario’s advertising laws by ensuring every person’s right to equal treatment in employment. The HRC says that the following must not directly or indirectly classify or indicate qualifications using HRC’s prohibited grounds of discrimination:

  • job postings or advertisements
  • forms of application for employment
  • during written or oral inquiries or personal employment interview

What can or cannot be advertised in Ontario?

Canadian advertising laws, including the provincial advertising laws of Ontario, state what can be advertised in the province. Aside from what has been set by the above-mentioned laws, advertisers are also guided by the following laws and regulations:

Laws and regulations on advertising alcohol, lottery and gaming, and cannabis

Ontario has enacted statutes on advertising alcohol, lottery and gaming, and cannabis. In addition, the Alcohol and Gaming Commission of Ontario (AGCO) also released its advertising standards through its regulations based on provincial statutes. Here are some the restrictions under these laws, regulations, and standards when it comes to advertising these products or activities:

  • alcohol must not:
    • appeal to persons below 19 years old
    • promote the merits of alcohol consumption
    • make claims any benefits of alcohol
  • lottery and gaming must not:
    • target high-risk, underage or self-excluded persons
    • mislead players or misrepresent lottery products
    • communicate gambling inducements, bonuses and credits
  • cannabis must not:
    • appeal to or target persons under 19 years old
    • suggest that cannabis consumption is associated with success, enjoyment, goal fulfillment, or is a solution to a problem
    • be associated with medicine, health, or pharmaceuticals
    • depict or suggest the illegal sale of cannabis

Advertising to minors and children

While Ontario does not have a ban on advertising to children like Québec does, advertisers are still guided by other regulations.

Canadian Code of Advertising Standards

The Canadian Code of Advertising Standards has two provisions related to advertising to minors and children:

Clause 12 (Advertising to Children)

Advertisement for goods and services that are directed to children (below 13 years old) must not:

  • exploit their credulity, lack of experience, or their sense of loyalty; and
  • present information or illustrations that might result in their physical, emotional or moral harm
Clause 13 (Advertising to Minors)

Advertisement of prohibited products to be sold to minors:

  • must not be advertised in such a way as to appeal to minors
  • must feature adults, and must be clearly seen to be adults, when featuring people in it

Clause 12 only applies to advertising mediums (e.g., print and electronic media) other than broadcast (i.e., TV and radio). When it comes to broadcast advertising to children and minors, ASC’s Broadcast Code of Advertising to Children would apply.

Know more about federal and provincial advertising laws through the best advertising and marketing lawyers in Canada as ranked by Lexpert.