McDonald’s “4 For $4” Campaign Accused Of Being Misleading & Deceptive

McDonald’s “4 For $4” Campaign Accused Of Being Misleading & Deceptive

The lesson of this story is always read the fine print: The Advertising Standards Board (ASB) has received several complaints over McDonald’s “4 for $4” deal because people have driven to their local Maccas only to find out the deal is “only available at participating stores”.

The McDonald’s ad claims that a cheeseburger, small fries, small Coke and a sundae are available for $4. From the 8 second mark until the 14 second mark the following legal lines appear in clear, legible and easily readable text at the base of the screen: “Available 10:30am – midnight at participating restaurants for a limited time. Excludes McDelivery®.”

It appears the “participating restaurants for a limited time” detail was missed by several people who complained to the ASB. A sample of comments which the complainant/s made regarding this advertisement include:

  • I verily believe that the McDonalds Ad for an alleged special “4 for $4” is misleading and deceptive.
  • After the advert ran on TV I went to the drive thru of McDonalds Main Street Kangaroo Point Queensland about lunch time on Wednesday 04/01/2017 and ordered a “4 for $4 Special” and was told that it was only available if the advert was currently showing on the electronic board of the drive thru. I had driven there specifically for the special after seeing the advert on the TV. I felt I was misled and deceived as I was not aware of the requirement that the special only applied if shown on the electronic board in the drive thru. If this is the case then why advertise on the TV? The special is therefore not available at prescribed time ie it is ad hoc and up to the McDonalds to run the advert on the drive thru. Surely, the intention is to mislead and deceive people to come and then not be guaranteed the special.
  • Since my visit to McDonalds, I have again seen the ad and paid special attention to the small print displayed on the bottom of the page. I am not kidding about the “small print”. It was tiny, the colour did not stand, and there was no words detailing that T&C’s applied. I note that the fine print does not appear for the full length of the ad but only appears for the final few seconds. I note that the small print only outlines that the special is only available at participating stores. What does this mean? It is either a special at McDonalds or not. If it is not available at all stores then the ad should detail which stores it is available at. Further, the ad makes no mention that “participating stores” means stores that run the ad in the drive thru. That means you have to dive into the drive thru to determine if it a “participating store”. This reinforces that McDonalds are trying to mislead and deceive.
  • I feel I should be reimbursed for my time and costs along with all other customers (or McDonalds should donate the equivalent of all “4 for 4” sales to Ronald McDonald House, the ACCC prosecute McDonalds, McDonalds stop the ad and apologize, and all TV networks stop the ad.

In a very extensive response, a McDonald’s representative claimed “the TVC makes it very clear to the target audience that the offer is only available at participating restaurants. The legal disclaimer was shown clearly and legibly for a sufficient amount of time for the ordinary reasonable person to be able to read and understand it. By the complainant’s own admission, the disclaimer was present in the commercial and clearly said “at participating restaurants”.

“The complainant’s contention that we ought to list in the TVC which restaurants are participating and which restaurants are not participating is unreasonable and impractical.”

The ASB agreed with Maccas, saying that “the number of McDonald’s restaurants in Australia and considered that it was not feasible or practical for an advertisement to list each and every store and whether or not they are participating in a particular offer”. The complaints were dismissed.


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