Unhappy about Happy Meals: Quebec lawyer files request for class action against McDonald's
Published Tuesday, March 14, 2017 8:51AM EDT
A Montreal lawyer has filed a request for a class action lawsuit against McDonald’s, claiming the popular restaurant chain’s marketing strategy illegally targets children.
Joey Zukran claims that the fast-food giant is violating Quebec’s consumer protection laws with ads that directly target children under the age of 13.
Zukran argued that McDonald’s is breaking the provincial rules with its in-store display cases, at children’s eye level, showcasing toys included in “Happy Meals." The advertisements for the toys on posters and screens inside the restaurant should also be considered a violation, the lawyer told CTV Montreal.
“You have displays of something you would see in the store, which is prohibited by law because it incites young children to want to purchase the item just because of the toy,” Zukran said.
It’s not the first time McDonald’s Happy Meal marketing tactics have come under fire. Quebec Weight Coalition, a lobby group working to prevent obesity, successfully forced the company to pay a fine for airing a commercial in 2009.
The coalition also recently filed a complaint about the company’s in-store advertisements to The Office of Consumer Protection, the province’s consumer watchdog. The group’s director, Corinne Voyer, said the fast-food company is notorious for aggressively marketing their products towards children, which can have an impact on their health.
“This marketing strategy is trying to create an effective relationship with the food and the toy and the brand with the kids,” Voyer explained. “Also, because it’s a promotion of a collection in a limited time, it also encourages kids to ask their parents to come back and buy another meal.”
Voyer said the lobby group is not calling for an outright ban on Happy Meal toys, like one passed in Chile in 2012. Instead, the coalition plans to wait and see what happens with Zukran’s request for a class action lawsuit.
Recalling a failed attempt to ban Happy Meal toys in California in 2012, Zukran is confident his suit will succeed.
“Quebec law is much more protective of its consumers and of children in this particular case,” he said.
The claimants in the class action lawsuit are seeking compensatory and punitive damages from McDonald’s according to the filed request. It typically takes about a year for a judge to determine if a class action case may proceed.
McDonald’s declined to comment.
With a report from CTV Montreal’s Annie Demelt