In its first real enforcement action since Canada's
Anti-Spam Law ("CASL") came into force
on July 1, 2014, the Canadian Radio Television and
Telecommunications Commission (the
"CRTC"), announced on March 5, 2015 that
it had issued a Notice of Violation under CASL to Compu-Finder, a
business providing executive and management training services.
The CRTC alleges that Compu-Finder violated CASL by promoting
its training courses through commercial electronic messages
("CEMs") sent to recipients without
consent, some of which were additionally non-compliant by failing
to provide properly functioning unsubscribe mechanisms. In
analyzing complaints made to the Spam Reporting Centre, the CRTC
found that Compu-Finder accounted for 26% of all complaints
submitted within its industry sector.
The CRTC imposed a penalty of $1.1 million against Compu-Finder
for the four alleged violations that it investigated, and
Compu-Finder now has 30 days to provide written representations to
the CRTC in its defence, pay the fine or request an undertaking
(which is basically a negotiated settlement and may still involve a
fine). The release states that Compu-Finder "...flagrantly
violated the basic principles of the law..." by continuing to
send unsolicited CEMs after the law came into force to e-mail
addresses it located by "scouring websites" and notes
that "[c]omplaints submitted to the Spam Reporting Centre
clearly indicate that consumers didn't find Compu-Finder's
offerings relevant to them."
Every company that does business in Canada should have CASL
compliance on its radar, and ensuring that one has express or
implied consent, or an exemption, prior to sending out a CEM is
essential. In addition, there is required content that must be
included in every CEM such as properly identifying the sender, and
providing a functioning, no-cost, easily usable unsubscribe
There is a government-run website containing tips for
compliance, frequently asked questions and more (including the Spam
Reporting Centre that led to this notice of violation). The CRTC
has also published guidance in its Compliance and Enforcement
Information Bulletin CRTC 2014-326, dated June 19, 2014, entitled
"Guidelines to help businesses develop corporate
compliance programs" containing practical steps that
companies can take to develop, foster and implement a
A particular lesson from this instance relates to what is known
under CASL as the "business card rule", where a sender is
granted implied consent to send some messages if the recipient has
made known his or her electronic address (such as by putting it on
a website or a business card). By stating that "consumers
didn't find Compu-Finder's offerings relevant to
them", the CRTC's press release anticipates this defence.
It is important to remember that the "business card rule"
is not an unfettered exception opening up the inboxes of recipients
who give out their email addresses; instead, it can only be used
where the message is relevant to the recipient or his or her
duties, roles or functions (also, it does not exempt a sender from
informational or unsubscribe requirements).
The digital landscape has changed for conducting business in
Canada. With the CRTC clearly demonstrating that it will not
hesitate to seek fines that are meant to deter continued
non-compliance, businesses must a adopt CASL-compliant practices or
risk CRTC sanction.
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.
Under the Income Tax Act, the Employment Insurance Act, and the Excise Tax Act, a director of a corporation is jointly and severally liable for a corporation's failure to deduct and remit source deductions or GST.
Under the Income Tax Act, the Employment Insurance Act, the Canada Pension Plan Act and the Excise Tax Act, a director of a corporation is jointly and severally liable for a corporation's failure to deduct and remit source deductions.
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