On June 2, 2016, the Competition Bureau reached a consent
agreement with Aviscar Inc. and Budgetcar Inc. / Budgetauto Inc.,
over allegations of false or misleading advertising for prices and
discounts on car rentals and associated products. A Bureau
investigation concluded that certain prices and discounts initially
advertised were not attainable because consumers were charged
additional mandatory fees that were only disclosed later when
making a reservation. Pursuant to the consent agreement, the
parties will pay a $3 million administrative monetary penalty, as
well as $250,000 towards the Bureau's investigative
costs. The parties have also agreed to implement a compliance
In March 2015, the Bureau filed an application against the
Aviscar Inc. and Budgetcar Inc. / Budgetauto Inc., alleging that
the parties had made false or misleading representations to the
public to promote the use of their rental cars and associated
products, and that the parties had supplied their rental cars and
associated products at a higher price than was advertised to
consumer. The representations were made across a broad range of
media including print, website, mobile applications, television
commercials and electronic messages.
The Bureau argued that the initial price offered in the
advertisements created a false general impression about discounts
that were allegedly available to consumers for rental cars, which
did not take into account mandatory fees that increased the
ultimate price of the rental. Such mandatory fees were
allegedly disclosed only once a consumer had chosen to make a
reservation. As such, the Bureau's view was that rental cars
were not available at the prices initially advertised to
consumers. The Bureau concluded that these mandatory
fees could increase the cost of a rental by 5% to 20% above the
initial advertised price. Furthermore, the disclosure associated
with these mandatory fees allegedly misled consumers to believe
that they were taxes and surcharges levied by government and
authorized agencies when in fact they were fees emanating from the
parties themselves. To address the Bureau's concerns, the
parties voluntarily redesigned their Canadian websites in July 2015
to ensure consumers are made aware of any mandatory fees when they
are first shown the advertised price.
The consent agreement serves as an important reminder to
businesses that the general impression of an advertisement is just
as important as the fine print, and that mandatory fees that are
not clearly disclosed to consumers at the initial stage of
advertising a price, including in electronic messages and online
price building tools, could result in misleading advertising.
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