An Alberta man who operated an online oil and gas job
opportunities scam was found guilty by a jury of two offences under
the Competition Act: making misleading representations
contrary to section 52, and breaching a consent agreement contrary
to section 66, the Competition Bureau announced recently.
Matthew Hovila's website, www.oilcareer.com, promised job
seekers employment in the oil and gas industry – for a
membership fee. (The site is no longer online, but can be found on
the WayBack Machine.)
Jobs! Jobs! Jobs! Guaranteed! ...
or maybe not
Mr. Hovila signed the consent agreement with the Competition Bureau
in 2006 to settle the Bureau's investigation into the same job
opportunities websites. The Bureau found that he misrepresented how
widely job seekers' resumes would be distributed, used
testimonials from alleged past customers without establishing that
the customers gave the testimonials, and misrepresented the
ordinary selling price of the service. In the agreement Mr. Hovila
and his company agreed to pay a $100,000 administrative monetary
penalty and to stop making misleading representations.
Once registered, consent agreements are equivalent to orders of
the Competition Tribunal. Section 66 of the Competition
Act makes it an offence to breach an order of the Tribunal
(and thus also, a consent agreement). In R. v. Hovila, the
court found that section 66 creates a strict liability offence.
This means that the Crown does not need to prove that the accused
intended to breach the order, but an accused can raise the due
diligence defence, which requires proof that the accused took all
reasonable steps to avoid breaching the order.
Mr Hovila has not been sentenced. He faces up to 14 years in
jail for the misleading advertising offence, and up to five years
in jail for breaching the consent agreement, plus a fine in the
discretion of the court.
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