The CRTC issued its first "Notice of Violation" under
Canada's anti-spam law ("CASL") today, assessing an
administrative monetary penalty of $1.1 million against
Compu-Finder, for allegedly sending commercial electronic messages
without consent and for providing an unsubscribe mechanism that did
not function properly. According to Manon Bombardier, Chief
Compliance and Enforcement Officer at the CRTC:
violated the basic principles of the law by continuing to send
unsolicited commercial electronic messages after the law came into
force to email addresses it found by scouring websites. Complaints
submitted to the Spam Reporting Centre clearly indicate that
consumers didn't find Compu-Finder's offerings relevant to
them. By issuing this Notice of Violation, my goal is to encourage
a change of behaviour on the part of Compu-Finder such that it
adapts its business practices to the modern reality of electronic
commerce and the requirements of the anti-spam law. We take
violations to the law very seriously and expect businesses to be in
Compu-Finder apparently sent commercial electronic messages to
businesses promoting training courses in topics such as management,
social media and professional development. The CRTC reported that
Compu-Finder accounted for 26% of all complaints for this industry
So, what are the takeaways for your business?
Do not assume that CASL does not apply to your marketing emails
if they are directed only to businesses and not consumers. As we
can see from the Compu-Finder case, CASL applies and will be
enforced in non-exempt B2B types of communications.
CASL is a consent-based anti-spam law, but it also has other
requirements. In this case, part of the complaint related to a
non-functioning unsubscribe mechanism.
This Notice of Violation related to only four alleged
violations. Do not assume that, because the scope of a
CASL-infringing activity was limited in time, the CRTC will not
Email addresses here were allegedly obtained by "scouring
websites" according to Ms. Bombardier. Although electronic
address harvesting is under the purview of the Office of the
Privacy Commissioner of Canada in that office's enforcement of
the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents
Act, the matter can be referred to the CRTC where enforcement
tools under CASL are more robust.
This is a reverse onus situation. Receiving a Notice of
Violation automatically puts the recipient on the defensive –
it is now up to Compu-Finder to make written representations on the
size of the penalty, pay the penalty or enter into an
"undertaking" with the CRTC on the issue.
The CRTC has the power to levy significant administrative
monetary penalties and, based on this example, seems willing to use
those powers, even though it could have proceeded with less
stringent measures such as warning letters, preservation demands,
notices to produce and restraining orders.
CASL is a new and significant piece of Canadian legislation
affecting business communications, and this case gives us a sense
of its seriousness. We will continue to monitor developments
concerning CASL as they unfold and post any updates to our
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
about your specific circumstances.
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