In a recent decision from the
Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC),
Plentyoffish Media Inc. was fined $48,000 for violating
Canada's anti-spam legislation. This announcement comes only
weeks after Compu-Finder was hit with a $1.1 million fine, which
was the first fine levied after CASL came into effect in July
Plenty of Fish, a Vancouver based company, runs a popular free
online dating service. It was founded in 2003 and has grown to be a
massive global presence, being ranked the number one dating site
worldwide in 2011. In addition to their website, pof.com, Plenty of
Fish also has mobile apps for iPhone and Android.
On March 25, 2015, it was announced that Plenty of Fish had
voluntarily entered into an undertaking with the Chief Compliance
and Enforcement Officer of the CRTC. The undertaking resulted from
emails that Plenty of Fish sent to registered users of its dating
service between July 1, 2014 and October 8, 2014 that contained an
unsubscribe mechanism that, according to the CRTC, "was not
set out 'clearly and prominently' and was not able to be
'readily performed'". The emails in question were
contrary to sections 6(2)(c) and 11(1)(b) of the statute, as well as sections
2(2) and 3 of the regulations.
In addition to the $48,000 payment, Plenty of Fish has
undertaken to implement a compliance program and ensure that third
parties that send messages on its behalf will also comply with the
Act and the Regulations. The compliance program, which will be
implemented by Plenty of Fish, will include training and education
for employees, monitoring, and disciplinary procedures, among other
It is interesting to note, that while Plenty of Fish took
steps to remedy the situation by updating its unsubscribe process
to comply with the legislation and has since agreed to develop a
compliance program including staff training, Compu-Finder was
ordered to pay a much more substantial fee of $1.1 million after
the CRTC found that it has "flagrantly" flouted CASL.
These decisions are instructive in three respects. First, the
facts serve as a reminder of the kind of conduct that can give rise
to liability under CASL for businesses that communicate
electronically with their customers and others (which is most
businesses in the modern world) and the need for vigilance and
appropriate advice to ensure compliance. Second, the decisions give
businesses and the lawyers who advise them a sense of monetary and
non-monetary penalties that can result from a breach of CASL.
Third, the decisions, and variance in fines, demonstrate that,
although the CRTC is willing to issue tough penalties, parties are
more likely to receive favourable treatment if they respond quickly
and work with the CRTC to develop a plan to address compliance
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