Canada: Be A Winner: Complying With Canadian Contest Laws

Last Updated: September 9 2016
Article by Monica Sharma

Promotional contests can be a great way to obtain brand exposure and generate consumer loyalty for the products and services of a business. With the rise of social media, business owners now have an additional platform to run contests and reach even more consumers than ever before. Canadian contest law regulates contests, both online and offline, through a variety of statutes and regulations. Operators of contests should be aware of the legislative framework for running contests in Canada and ensure that their Canadian contests and contest rules are compliant with the legislation. Non-compliant contests could result in heavy penalties.

Canadian contests are governed by complex laws and regulations, including the Competition Act and the Criminal Code. Additionally, if a contest is offered in Quebec, specific provincial legislation will apply. Below, we discuss some key concepts to keep in mind when running a promotional contest in Canada. Please note that, given the complex legislative framework, this article is not meant to offer legal advice. If you intend to run a contest in Canada, it is important to obtain legal advice on both the contest and the contest rules.

Skill Testing Questions

Under the Criminal Code, games of pure chance are considered illegal lotteries. Random draws for prizes fall into this category. As such, it is important to include a skill testing question in promotional contests to comply with the Criminal Code. By adding a skill testing question to a random draw contest, the contest becomes a permitted game of mixed skill and chance, provided that the "no purchase necessary" requirement (discussed below) is also fulfilled. Conversely, a contest based on pure skill does not require a skill testing question. However, it is important to clearly disclose how a pure skill contest will be judged in order to satisfy competition law requirements (discussed further below).

No Purchase Necessary

The Criminal Code also deems it an illegal lottery to require an entrant to pay valuable consideration in order to play a game of pure chance or a game of mixed skill and chance. "Consideration" does not only include money—it could be requiring a contestant to complete a list of tasks prior to entering the contest or requiring the entrant to purchase a product or service in order to enter the contest.

In order to avoid this aspect of the illegal lottery provision, the contest should provide that no purchase is required to enter the contest and provide a no purchase necessary method of entry. If an entrant may be entered into a contest by virtue of purchasing a product or service, it is important not to distinguish these entrants from those who enter without a purchase. For example, contestants who purchase should not be put into a separate draw from entrants who do not purchase. Furthermore, those entrants purchasing products or services should not be provided with additional entries.

Failure to comply with the Criminal Code provisions on illegal lotteries can lead to being found guilty of an indictable offence (which may involve a term of imprisonment of up to 2 years) or an offence punishable on summary conviction.

Contests in Quebec

Any contest that is offered to Quebec residents must meet the requirements of the Régie des alcools, des cours et des jeux ("Régie"), a government of Quebec board that regulates contests, among other products and services. The Régie's requirements include translating the contest rules into French and payment of an administrative fee. Unless contest sponsors comply with the Régie's requirements, contests should specifically exclude Quebec residents from participating.

Competition Act and Contest Rules

The Competition Act prohibits promotional contests that do not disclose the number and approximate value of the prizes, the area or areas to which the contest relates and any fact within the knowledge of the contest operator that materially affects the chances of winning. The Act further states that distribution of prizes must not be unduly delayed and that participants must be selected or prizes must be distributed on the basis of skill or on a random basis.

The contest rules should address these requirements by clearly setting out:

  • any regional allocation of prizes;
  • the number and value of the prizes;
  • any additional material information that affects the chances of winning; and
  • timelines and process to award prizes.

Failure to comply with the provisions of the Competition Act regarding promotional contests can lead to onerous fines of up to $750,000 for individuals (and $1,000,000 for each subsequent court order) and $10,000,000 for corporations (and $15,000,000 for each subsequent court order).

The contest rules can also be used to limit risk and liability exposure for the contest sponsor in various respects. For example, if the contest involves participants making submissions (such as a written essay or a photograph), it is important to address copyright and moral rights issues in the rules, allowing the contest sponsor to use submissions as intended. If the contest sponsor wishes to take ownership of the user content, the rules should contain an assignment of copyright. If ownership is not required, the rules should contain a license to permit the contest sponsor to use the user content as desired. Whether there is an assignment or a license of copyright in the user content, the rules should contain a waiver of moral rights to allow the content to be used without attribution to the author and to allow amendments to the content.

The contest rules can also be used to address any particular privacy aspects, such as obtaining consent to use entrant information to contact entrants with respect to special promotions or marketing initiatives. Note that Canadian privacy laws require that collectors of personal information identify the use of the information and that such collectors must obtain the consent of the relevant individual to use their information as specified.

Social Media Rules

In addition to the legislative requirements described above, running a contest through a social media outlet requires compliance with the outlet's rules for contests. For example, if Facebook is used to communicate or administer a contest, Facebook's contest rules require that the contest rules contain a complete release of Facebook by each entrant or participant in the contest and an acknowledgement that the contest is not sponsored, endorsed or administered by Facebook. Pinterest also has guidelines on how to run a contest on its site, including not allowing more than one entry per participant and not requiring participants to "Pin" a specific image. It is important to keep these specific social media rules in mind as you develop and offer your contest.


The laws governing contests in Canada are complex and entail significant penalties for non-compliance. Should you require any legal advice with respect to running contests in Canada, we would be pleased to speak with you.

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.

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.