A consent agreement was filed with the Competition Tribunal on
June 28, 2011 whereby Bell Canada, Bell Mobility and Bell ExpressVu
(collectively, "Bell") must pay an administrative
monetary penalty ("AMP") of $10 MILLION DOLLARS, modify
all non-compliant advertisements within 60 days and pay the
$100,000 dollars in costs and disbursements incurred by the
Competition Bureau (the "Bureau") during the course of
At issue Bell's advertising, going as far
back as December 2007 until at least June 2011, promoting prices
for services to the public that the Bureau concluded were false or
misleading in a material respect, contrary to the civil provisions
(Section 74.01(1)(a)) of the Competition Act (the
This consent agreement is notable because it is the first time
we've seen an AMP of $10M imposed for misleading advertising.
Back in 2009, a new maximum AMP was set (upped from $100,000 to
$10M) for a first order under the civil misleading advertising
provisions of the Act. While consent agreements have previously
imposed AMPs above the statutory maximum (particularly, in
'ordinary selling price' cases), here we see the first time
this new $10M threshold has been reached in this context.
Here, the Bureau contends that Bell advertised many of its
services as though the consumer only had to pay monthly advertised
prices (plus taxes and government fees), but in fact additional
fees were applicable. By way of example, the Bureau notes in its
press release that Bell was advertising a starting price of $69.90
per month for a home phone, internet and television services bundle
package, but the actual price being charged to its customers,
including the additional fees, was $80.27...15% more then the
advertised price. Those fees, according to the consent agreement,
had to be sought out by consumers on Bell's website and other
locations. So it was not possible for consumers to obtain
the services at the advertised prices; and, according to the
Bureau, the disclaimers related to those additional fees were
insufficient to change the general impression created by the price
This matter has been resolved by way of a consent agreement and
so, while Bell does not contest the conclusions, Bell is not taken
to have admitted to, or accepted, any of the facts or any violation
Some of our readers may be waiting for news about the order
being sought by the Bureau against Rogers Communications and its
discount wireless service, Chatr, which we reported about
last December. In the Bureau's application to the Ontario
Superior Court of Justice, the same misleading advertising
provisions are at issue over Chatr ads claiming fewer
dropped calls than some other wireless carriers. In addition to the
maximum $10M administrative monetary penalty, the Bureau is also
seeking restitution and corrective notices, which were not part of
the Bell consent agreement. The Rogers case is still making its way
through the court process, and we'll report as new developments
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In less than nine months, on July 1, 2017, persons affected by a contravention of Canada's anti-spam legislation will be able to invoke a private right of action to sue for compensation and potentially substantial statutory damages.
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