Unfair or deceptive business practices

An unfair or deceptive business practice is a claim aimed to mislead the average person. This claim may also take advantage of a person's inability to protect their interests during negotiations.

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Misleading advertising

Misleading advertising occurs when a claim about a product or service is materially false, in an attempt to persuade the consumer to buy it. The Competition Act prohibits misleading advertising. The Competition Bureau is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the Competition Act, the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act (except as it relates to food), the Textile Labelling Act and the Precious Metals Marking Act.

Common forms of misleading advertising related to the price of a product are:

  • Double ticketing—when two or more prices are indicated on a product or service, and the consumer is charged the higher price.
  • Pyramid selling—a multilevel marketing plan that uses specific deceptive means to obtain money (see also "Multi-level marketing and pyramid selling ").
  • Bait and switch—occurs when a seller attracts customers by advertising a certain product or service at a bargain price and then persuades the customer to purchase a more expensive item, since the seller does not have reasonable quantities of the advertised item in stock.
  • Drip pricing—offering a product or service at an unattainable price because consumers must also pay additional charges or fees to buy the product or service.
  • Ordinary selling price strategies—when a product notes an inflated price to create the illusion of offering a better deal.
  • Sale above advertised price—selling or renting a product at a price above its advertised price.

Reporting unfair or deceptive business practices

If you believe you have been deceived, you may contact:

When the matter relates to food labeling or advertising, contact the Canadian Food Inspection Agency.

More information

For more details and examples of unfair or deceptive business practices, visit the Competition Bureau's Deceptive Marketing Practices Digest.

Most provinces and territories also have laws that protect consumers from unfair or deceptive business practices. To learn more or to file a complaint against a business, contact a provincial or territorial consumer affairs office or a Better Business Bureau near you.

Trusted consumer information

Published by the Consumer Measures Committee, a working group of federal, provincial and territorial governments, that helps educate and inform Canadian consumers.