The Canadian anti-spam law ("CASL")
came into effect on July 1, 2014 and includes the ability to levy
severe administrative monetary penalties of up to $10 million for
one violation of CASL. In March, 2015, the Canadian
Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
("CRTC") gave its first indication on
issuing penalties and addressing violations of CASL by rendering
two decisions dealing with CASL violations.
On March 6, 2014, the CRTC issued a notice of violation against
Academie Compu.finder ("Compu.finder")
which included an administrative monetary penalty of $1.1 million
dollars. Compu.finder had 30 days to pay the penalty, make written
representations regarding the allegations or enter into a written
undertaking with the CRTC regarding the penalty and compliance
The CRTC found that Compu.finder was offside CASL in two
respects. First, the CRTC found that Compu-Finder did not obtain
express consent from recipients, as required by CASL, for sending
commercial electronic messages ("CEMs")
to email addresses it obtained online. The CRTC made this finding,
despite the existence of an exemption under CASL for sending CEMs
to published electronic addresses where the recipient has not
indicated s/he does not wish to receive unsolicited CEMs and where
the email is relevant to his/her business, roles, functions or
duties in a business or official capacity. Compu.finder provides
training courses and in this connection, sent emails to recipients
regarding its various training programs. The CRTC, however, found
that the recipients of the emails from Compu.finder did not find
the emails relevant to their job roles, thereby introducing an
element of subjectivity into this exemption. Second, the CRTC found
that Compu.finder did not have a CASL-compliant unsubscribe
mechanism within its CEMs. CASL requires that the unsubscribe
mechanism be clearly and prominently set out and that it can be
The CRTC further commented that Compu.finder did not cooperate
with the CRTC when contacted regarding its non-compliance and that
complaints against Compu.finder formed 26% of the complaints filed
with the CRTC between July 1, 2014 and September 16, 2014. Both of
these factors appear to have influenced the amount of the penalty
issued by the CRTC against Compu.finder.
On March 24, 2015, the CRTC entered into an undertaking whereby
PlentyofFish Media Inc. ("PlentyofFish")
agreed to pay a fine of $48,000 for failing to have a
CASL-compliant unsubscribe mechanism in emails sent to its
customers. The CRTC found that PlentyofFish did not have an
unsubscribe mechanism that was clearly and prominently set out and
that could be readily performed. In this case, the CRTC noted
that PlentyofFish cooperated with the CRTC by fixing its
unsubscribe mechanism to be CASL-compliant and by agreeing to
develop an anti-spam compliance plan, including training its
employees on CASL requirements.
These decisions from the CRTC regarding penalties under CASL
clearly indicate that the CRTC is actively reviewing complaints
that it receives for alleged violations of CASL. As a result,
businesses should confirm that they have CASL compliant processes
in place in order to avoid potentially large penalties for CASL
violations. Businesses should also be prepared to respond promptly
and cooperate with the CRTC if they are contacted regarding
potential CASL violations.
Originally published in the International Lawyer's
Network Insider blog.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general
guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought
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