- A Quebec judge has issued a ruling certifying a lawsuit against McDonald’s for illegally advertising to children.
- A father from the Canadian region launched the suit after complaining that he’s spent hundreds of dollars on Happy Meals for his three children.
- According to court documents, the father said the toys that accompany Happy Meals are advertised at the eye level of children and often come as part of a series, which prompts them to ask for more.
- The man’s lawyer is arguing that McDonald’s is failing to comply with Quebec consumer-protection laws, which prohibit advertising to children under the age of 13.
- McDonald’s denies any wrongdoing.
A father from Quebec has filed a class-action lawsuit against McDonald’s for illegally advertising to children – and a judge has allowed it to go ahead.
Antonio Bramante said he visits a McDonald’s restaurant at once every two weeks with at least one of his three children, and has spent hundreds of dollars on Happy Meals under pressure from them, according to court documents.
Bramante said the toys that accompany Happy Meals are often linked with the launch of popular films and come as part of a series, which prompts children to ask for more Happy Meals in order to complete their set.
Bramante added that Happy Meal toys are displayed inside the restaurants at the eye level of children.
“Mr. Bramante claims that McDonald’s is deliberately doing this to the detriment of vulnerable consumers, their children, and their families,” the court documents read.
Advertising to children under the age of 13 is illegal in Quebec, where the consumer-protection laws are among the strictest in Canada.
“In today’s world, parents have to choose their battles. And what’s the easiest thing to give in to? It’s to feed your children,” said Joey Zukran, the Montreal-based lawyer who filed the class action on Bramante’s behalf, according to BBC News.
“McDonald’s has a legal obligation to respect that law, and they’re not – in Quebec, at least.”
Zukran added that anyone who has purchased a McDonald’s Happy Meal in Quebec since November 2013 could ask to join the class action.
Last week, a court judge issued a ruling certifying the lawsuit.
The fast-food chain, which has about 300 restaurants in Quebec, denies any wrongdoing.
“McDonald’s Canada has received the ruling and plans to examine it carefully,” McDonald’s said in a statement to BBC News.
“We are aware of our obligations under Quebec’s advertising laws and reiterate that we do not believe this class action has merit.”
Quebec does have three exceptions to its advertising laws regarding children: advertisements in children’s magazines, promotions for a children’s entertainment event, and advertising via store windows, displays, containers, packaging, and labels.
A representative for McDonald’s told La Presse that the chain was covered by these exceptions, saying, “It’s not illegal to sell or advertise Happy Meals.”
However, Zukran is ready to argue that McDonald’s is not covered by any of the exceptions.
The news comes after the fast-food giant announced in February that it had cut calories in Happy Meals in a bid to win over parents.
“It’s really what we see as a gentle nudge in encouraging more positive choices,” Julia Braun, the head of global nutrition for McDonald’s, told Business Insider at the time.
“As a mum, I hear comments all the time that are like, ‘You don’t eat McDonald’s,’ or, ‘You don’t give McDonald’s to your kids, right?'” Braun said. “And I’m shocked.”
The change was part of McDonald’s major effort to modernise how people perceive the fast-food chain.