In a recent investigation into dark patterns and unsupported pricing, the Canadian Competition Bureau (the “Bureau”) concluded that The Dufresne Group Inc. (“TDG”) promoted products at sale prices that were based on inflated regular prices and made false or misleading urgency claims about limited time offer deals on certain products. TDG has agreed to pay a $3.25 million administrative monetary penalty (“AMP”) and $100,000 towards the Bureau’s costs in a negotiated, 10-year consent agreement.

The Bureau found that TDG offered consumers products at inflated regular prices and then marketed the products at big discounts, giving the false or misleading impression that consumers were getting significant savings on those products. The Bureau also found that TDG advertised urgent, limited time offers to consumers, including using tactics like countdown timers. These “dark patterns” gave the impression that deals on certain products would no longer be available after a certain time and that consumers must purchase a product quickly prior to the end of a promotion. The Bureau concluded these representations were false or misleading because the offer were still available after the countdown timer expired.

TDG owns retail brands such as Dufresne Furniture and Appliances and select Ashley HomeStores. The Bureau investigated the marketing claims made by the furniture and appliance retailer on its websites, in-store and via various advertising channels.  

In addition to paying the AMP and costs, TDG and its affiliates have agreed to cooperate with the Bureau, ensure their marketing practices comply with the Competition Act and to establish and maintain a corporate compliance program.

This is the first federal deceptive marketing enforcement action in Canada since January 2022, signaling the end of a lengthy lull in enforcement – perhaps related to COVID-19. It is also the first since the introduction of significantly higher potential AMPs in summer 2022, although TDG’s AMP is similar to historical AMP amounts. The clear takeaway is that the Bureau is continuing its focus on enforcing against unsubstantiated regular price representations and dark patterns like false scarcity cues.