Canada: Canadian Telcos And Banks Subject To The Quebec Privacy Law

Last Updated: November 3 2014
Article by Éloïse Gratton

A decision was recently issued by the Quebec Commission d'Accès à l'information ("CAI") pursuant to the Act respecting the protection of personal information in the private sector ("Quebec Private Sector Act") following a complaint filed against a Canadian telco ("Telco") pertaining to the collection of personal information. In X. c. Rogers Communications Inc., the complainant's social insurance number (SIN) and driver's licence number were collected by Telco in the context of the activation of a cell phone.

The CAI declared the complaint founded and ordered Telco to cease collecting and holding the numbers of pieces of identification, including the SIN, presented by customers when opening an account for activation of a cell phone.

This decision is important for several aspects:

1.  Confirmation of the customer's identity

Telco required the collection of the plaintiff's personal information during an application for opening of an account for activation of a cell phone, namely her SIN and her date of birth. Telco also asked her to present her driver's licence. Given her refusal to provide the information requested, she was informed that Telco could not proceed to open the account.

Telco explained that when an account is opened, the customer is invited to provide his/her name, address, telephone number and date of birth. In addition, the customer is required to provide two pieces of identification, which he/she may choose from a list including the SIN, driver's licence number, credit card number or passport number. It specified that no copies are made of the pieces of identification requested to validate a potential customer's identity. However, the numbers of these IDs are noted in the customer's file.

The CAI acknowledges that an organization has the right to verify a customer's identity for the purchase or supply of goods or services payable in installments. Although an organization may not require the production of specific pieces of identification, such as the driver's licence or the health insurance card, it nonetheless may ask the customer to provide recognized pieces of identification of his/her choice to confirm his/her identity in accordance with previous decisions1 and including, more recently, X. and Loca-Meuble and X. and Skyventure Montréal. In the Skyventure decision, the CAI recognized the right to authenticate customers' identities, but specified that, to do so, it is not necessary to collect the number of the ID presented for this purpose.

According to the CAI, even though an organization may ask to see pieces of identification in order to verify the identity of its customers, it may not collect their number, nor may it keep a copy of these IDs. The organization may note in the customer's file which of the pieces of identification was presented, but the CAI was not convinced of the necessity of collecting the ID number to identify the customer. Moreover, the CAI mentions that the Quebec Highway Safety Code provides at section 61 para. 2 that the driver's licence may only be required in special situations. Thus, the CAI concluded that telcos may not oblige an individual to identify himself/herself by means of a driver's licence.

2.  Credit checks, fraud prevention and debt collection

Telco alleged that it was necessary for it to ascertain its customers' solvency and ability to pay before making a service agreement. It argued that it must therefore proceed with a preliminary credit check for each of its subscribers. For this purpose, it collects the number of the ID of the customer's choice provided by the customer from among the above-mentioned pieces of identification. Telco alleged that it is generally practical and easy to provide the SIN, the driver's licence number or a credit card number. It considers that in the absence of reliable pieces of identification, the credit report obtained may turn out to be inaccurate or incomplete, resulting in material financial consequences for Telco.

In several decisions discussed above,2 the CAI concluded that only an individual's name, address, telephone number and date of birth are necessary to perform a credit check.

The CAI considered that an organization may ask its customers to present pieces of identification in order to verify their identity, but that it may not collect the numbers of these IDs, any more than the SIN, to perform identity checks or credit checks.

In addition, the CAI recognizes that the Federal Privacy Commissioner recommends that organizations not record personal information appearing on the ID examined to verify the customer's identity. Organizations must only compare the name and photo on the ID with the name indicated on the other ID presented. As for the SIN, the Federal Privacy Commissioner recommends limiting collection, use and disclosure to purposes authorized by the PIPEDA and related to income, according to its various guidelines, including its Best Practices for the use of social insurance numbers in the private sector, Photo Identification Guidance, Fact Sheet, September 2007 and Collection of driver's licence numbers under private sector privacy legislation – A guide for retailers.

3.  Jurisdiction of the CAI over complaints filed with a Telco or a Bank

Telco also pointed out that it submitted its observations without admission of the CAI's jurisdiction over the issues raised in the complaint. The ground alleged was the fact that it is a telecommunications undertaking, an area of exclusive federal jurisdiction. In this capacity, Telco argued that it would be subject only to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act ("PIPEDA") and considers that it complies with the applicable principles thereof.

This recent decision is therefore interesting for issues pertaining to the jurisdiction of the CAI over a complaint involving a telco, an area of federal jurisdiction. The CAI has the power to inquire into the application of s. 81 of the Quebec Private Sector Act. This Act applies to every person who collects, holds, uses or communicates personal information to third persons in the course of carrying on an enterprise in Québec (s. 1 of the Private Sector Act and also art. 1525 of the Civil Code of Québec).

Telcos carry on an organized economic activity that is commercial in nature, which consists of selling products and services. A telco is therefore an enterprise within the meaning of article 1525 of the Civil Code of Québec. Carrying on this economic activity involves the collection, holding, use and communication of personal information. Thus, the CAI concluded that a telco is subject to the Private Sector Act, an Act of general application that establishes specific rules regarding the protection of personal information within the context of carrying on an enterprise in Québec.

For the CAI to conclude the inapplicability of the Quebec Private Sector Act in the case at bar, Telco had to prove that the Quebec Private Sector Act affects one of its essential elements to the point of impairing the core of the federal power in telecommunications matters as pointed out by the Supreme Court in the recent decision Banque de Montréal v. Marcotte.

The CAI articulated the view that it did not see how the application of the Quebec Private Sector Act, in the case of verification of the identity of a customer and his solvency, impaired the core of telecommunications activities. Moreover, the CAI and the Court of Québec have already concluded that the Quebec Private Sector Act applies to federally regulated enterprises (which would include telcos and financial institutions) in many decisions including, more recently, in Nadler v. Rogers Communications Inc.3

Finally, Telco submitted that the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada has already concluded that the collection of two pieces of identification, including the SIN and the driver's licence number for identification and credit check purposes, was in compliance with the PIPEDA in Summaries of conclusions of inquiries under PIPEDA no 2002-104, no 2003-151, no 2003-204, no 2003-217 and no 2005-288. The CAI articulated the view that these conclusions do not exempt a telco from complying with the provisions of the Quebec Private Sector Act.

The CAI explains how as the Supreme Court has already indicated, if it is possible for an organization to comply with the provincial and federal statutes by satisfying the criteria of the stricter statute, there is no conflict and the organization must comply with the stricter rule in Procureur général de la Colombie-Britannique v. Lafarge Canada Inc. According to the Court, an interpretation must be favoured that seeks to reconcile provincial and federal legislation applicable to a given situation, especially when they pursue the same objective. In the case at bar, the CAI explains that the Quebec Private Sector Act and the PIPEDA seek the same objective: the protection of individual's personal information, and that both laws limit the collection of personal information by organizations.

A party invoking federal paramountcy must prove a conflict between the two statutes. The CAI concluded that the collection of a customer's personal identity information with a view to verifying his solvency is subject to the applicable rules of the Quebec Private Sector Act and that the CAI has the jurisdiction to rule on this complaint.

Takeaways for Businesses

The CAI ordered Telco to cease collecting and holding the numbers of pieces of identification, including the SIN, presented by customers when opening an account for activation of a cell phone. It states that Telco may collect the name, address, telephone number and date of birth of its customers and that it may verify the customer's identify by the presentation of pieces of identification left to the customer's choice, but it may not collect the number of the ID presented, including the SIN, nor make a copy of that number or piece of ID. While not all Canadian telcos collect SINs and drivers' licence numbers, those that still do may wish to modify their privacy practices in light of this recent CAI decision.

Many Canadian telcos and banks work under the assumption that the Quebec Private Sector Act does not apply to their activities. This decision from the CAI confirms that this assumption is not accurate if they are carrying on an enterprise in Québec. What is also important to keep in mind, is that the Quebec Private Sector Act is probably the most stringent data protection law that we have in Canada.4


1.Regroupement des comités logement and Association de locataires du Québec and Corporation des propriétaires immobiliers du Québec, [1995] C.A.I. 370; Julien v. Domaine Laudance, [2003] C.A.I. 77; Perreault v. Blondin, [2006] C.A.I. 162.


3.14 QCCQ 5609.

4.Privacy Law in Quebec – Substantially Similar but Different?, Nymity, Privacy Interviews with Experts, June 2012.

The foregoing provides only an overview and does not constitute legal advice. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, specific legal advice should be obtained.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.