On March 1, 2012, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice found
that five companies and three individuals (collectively the Yellow
Marketing Group) had made misleading representations to the public
in contravention of the federal Competition Act and
ordered them to pay over $9 million in administrative monetary
penalties (AMPs), the highest ever awarded in contested proceedings
regarding false or misleading representations in Canada.
representations were principally contained in unsolicited
faxes that were sent to numerous Canadian individuals,
businesses and organizations. The unsolicited faxes contained
third-party trade-marks owned by the Yellow Page Group (the Yellow
Marketing Group is distinct from the Yellow Pages Group, the latter
of which operates the popular telephone directory business), with
the "Walking Fingers" logo and the words "Yellow
Pages." The Commissioner of Competition alleged that the
unsolicited faxes led Canadians to believe that they were updating
their existing records with the Yellow Pages Group, whereas the
fine print revealed that they were actually signing a new two-year
contract with the Yellow Marketing Group for "internet
business directory" services. Canadians who responded to the
unsolicited faxes by filling out the requested information
subsequently received invoices totaling $2,856.
The Court agreed with the Commissioner's assessment of the
matter, finding that the unsolicited faxes were "intended to
deceive and did, in fact, deceive many Canadian businesses and
individuals into believing they were dealing with the [Yellow Pages
Group]." Further, the Court found that "the fact that the
fine print of the Unsolicited Faxes stated that returning them
would bind the recipient to a two year contract does not reduce its
false or misleading nature. The fine print did not clarify that the
Unsolicited Faxes had not been sent by [the Yellow Pages Group] and
the disclosure was insufficiently prominent."
As a result, the Yellow Marketing Group was ordered to publish
corrective notices, pay restitution to affected Canadians and pay
AMPs totaling over $9 million. Regarding the breakdown of the AMPs,
the five companies were jointly ordered to pay an $8 million AMP,
whereas two individuals who were considered to be the primary
principals running the scheme were each ordered to pay a $500,000
AMP. Finally, the third individual was considered to have played a
lesser role in the scheme as a debt collector for the Yellow
Marketing Group, and was therefore ordered to pay a lesser AMP of
This case illustrates the Competition Bureau's continuing
forceful pursuit of persons considered to have made false or
misleading representations in contravention of the Competition
Act, and sets a new precedent regarding the Court's
willingness to award significant AMPs in the course of contested
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