Canada: Playing By The Rules: Legal Considerations Concerning Promotional Contests In Canada

Last Updated: September 4 2019
Article by Shannon Tseng


Contests (i.e. a game of skill, chance, or mixed skill and chance) are useful marketing tools that individuals and organizations often employ to promote their goods, services, or other commercial interests. While the logistics of setting up and running a contest may seem conceptually simple, care must be taken to ensure that each contest is compliant with legal requirements including those arising under the Competition Act, the Criminal Code, privacy legislation and Canada's anti-spam legislation ("CASL").

The following is a list of non-exhaustive legal considerations concerning the administration of promotional contests in Canada.


1. Contest Type

Contests can be divided into three broad categories: (a) games of chance, such as a giveaway where the winner is selected by random draw; (b) games of skill, such as an essay competition where the winner is selected based on the quality of his or her written composition; or (c) games of mixed skill and chance.

Pursuant to section 206(1) of the Criminal Code, it is an indictable offence to administer a contest involving a game of pure chance where winning contestants are selected on a random basis. However, if a selected contestant is required to complete a skill-testing task, then the contest becomes a game of mixed skill and chance. For this reason, many Canadian lottery tickets include reasonably complex skill-testing mathematical equations.

2. Payment for Entry

Pursuant to section 206(1)(f) of the Criminal Code, it is an indictable offence to administer a contest involving a game of mixed skill and chance where: (a) the prize is any form of good, ware or merchandise; and (b) the contestant pays money or other valuable consideration to participate. This is the reason why many contest rules explicitly include a "no purchase necessary" disclaimer. Notably, this section of the Criminal Code references forms of "valuable consideration" other than money. In other words, contests of mixed skill and chance which require contestants to provide a form of property other than money or to perform an act that a contestant is not ordinarily obligated to perform in order to participate may nonetheless contravene section 206(1)(f) of the Criminal Code.

3. Adequate and Fair Disclosure

Section 74.06 of the Competition Act requires contest administrators to ensure that they adequately and fairly disclose the number and approximate value of the prizes, the area or areas to which the prizes relate, and any fact within the knowledge of the administrator which materially affects the chances of winning. This disclosure must be made in a conspicuous manner which does not inconvenience a potential contestant (e.g. a requirement for a potential contestant to send an e-mail or visit a specific location to obtain contest terms and conditions). In order to comply with section 74.06 of the Competition Act, contest administrators often prepare "short rules" (i.e. a short list of contest rules and disclaimers which sets out all legally required disclosure) to accompany all forms of contest advertisement and literature.

What specifically constitutes adequate and fair disclosure will vary depending on the circumstances and the mechanics of each contest. Regardless, short rules should generally set out: (a) a description of the prizes; (b) the number of prizes and regular market value of the prizes; (c) any regional allocation of prizes or regional exclusions; (d) the skill-testing question requirement; (e) whether or not a purchase is required; (f) the contest commencement time and date and closing time and date; (g) the procedure and timeline for selecting winners; and (h) any other information which may materially affect the chances of winning.

4. Privacy Laws

Private sector entities in Canada are either subject to the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act or to the equivalent provincial personal information legislation. If a contest administrator wishes to collect, retain, use, or disclose the personal information of contestants, the administrator should: (a) obtain the express consent of each contestant to such collection, retention, use or disclosure; (b) provide for any such collection, retention, use or disclosure in the contest terms and conditions; and (c) otherwise comply with applicable privacy laws.

5. Anti-Spam Laws

CASL applies to all commercial electronic messages sent to an electronic address. An "electronic address" is defined as an e-mail account, a telephone account, an instant messaging account or, in certain circumstances, a social media account. Accordingly, contest administrators who intend to undertake contest communications (e.g. contest invitation, contest follow-up, continued marketing) using any of these means should: (a) obtain the prior express consent of the contestant to receiving such communications; (b) provide requisite identification information in the communications; (c) provide for an unsubscribe mechanism in the communications; and (d) otherwise comply with CASL requirements.

6. Social Media

Many social media platforms (e.g. Facebook, Instagram and Twitter) have published policies or guidelines concerning the use of the platform to promote or otherwise administer a promotional contest. These policies or guidelines often require the contest administrator to obtain a complete release of the platform by each contestant and to expressly acknowledge that the promotion is not associated with the platform in any way, though specific requirements vary depending on the platform. Individuals or organizations who intend to use a social media platform to promote or otherwise administer a contest should carefully review and comply with these requirements.

7. Contest Terms and Conditions

In addition to short rules, contest administrators should prepare comprehensive contest terms and conditions. These terms and conditions should detail the rights of the contest administrator (e.g. to select alternate winners, to suspend or cancel the contest, or to amend contest rules), limit the liability of the contest administrator, and require each winner to sign a form of release.

8. Intellectual Property

Many contests require contestants to submit contestant-generated content, such as a written composition or photo. Terms and conditions for contests involving contestant-generated content should specifically address intellectual property issues including ownership and use of the content and, where appropriate, should include representations and warranties concerning the intellectual property, an assignment of intellectual property rights, and a waiver of moral and other rights.

9. Quebec

Canadian contests often exclude Quebec residents due to the unique and relatively onerous requirements arising under the Act Respecting Lotteries, Publicity Contests and Amusement Machines. Pursuant to the provisions of this statute, no "publicity contest" (i.e. any operation carried on for the purpose of promoting commercial interests and which results in the awarding of a prize) may be held unless the contest is authorized by the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux and otherwise complies with the statute. Contest administrators who wish extend their contest to Quebec residents should seek legal advice from Quebec counsel.


The successful implementation of a promotional contest requires careful planning and consideration of complex legal issues.

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.

Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
In association with
Related Topics
Similar Articles
Relevancy Powered by MondaqAI
Related Articles
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

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 or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq 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 of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions