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Day of Reckoning: First Notice of Violation for Spam - $1.1 Million CDN Penalty

March 6, 2015

By Jennifer McKenzie and Tamarah Luk 

On March 5, 2015, the CRTC, one of the Federal government agencies responsible for enforcing Canada’s anti-spam law, “CASL”, issued a Notice of Violation to Quebec company Compu-Finder for four violations of the law. The Notice includes a $1.1 million penalty. Notices of Violation can be issued under CASL when a Federal government enforcement agency has “reasonable grounds” to believe that entities have violated CASL.

Following numerous complaints to the Spam Reporting Centre (an online system created by the government to report violations of CASL), the CRTC conducted an investigation into Compu-Finder’s email activities.  The CRTC found that between July 2, 2014 and September 16, 2014, Compu-Finder sent emails promoting training courses to businesses without the consent of the recipients and without a proper functioning unsubscribe mechanism.

Manon Bombardier, the Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer at the CRTC described Compu-Finder as “flagrantly [violating] the basic principles of the law by continuing to send unsolicited commercial electronic messages after the law came into force to email addresses it found by scouring websites.”  The CRTC reports that complaints about Compu-Finder accounted for 26% of all complaints submitted to the Spam Reporting Centre.

Compu-Finder has 30 days to: (1) submit written representations to the CRTC; (2) pay the $1.1 million penalty; or (3) request an undertaking with the CRTC. Regarding (1), under CASL, a recipient of a Notice can reply with representations whereupon the CRTC must decide, on a balance of probabilities, whether the person committed the violation and, if so, may impose the penalty set out in the Notice, reduce or waive the penalty, or suspend payment of the penalty subject to any conditions that the CRTC considers necessary to ensure compliance with CASL.

Regarding (3), as part of its jurisdiction, the CRTC can enter into discussions with individuals and companies about the corrective actions they will take to become compliant with the law, as well as any penalties that they will pay, which then form part of an “undertaking”.

Ms. Bombardier went on to say that by issuing the Notice of Violation, the goal is to encourage a change in Compu-Finder’s behaviour “such that it adapts its business practices to the modern reality of electronic commerce and the requirements of the anti-spam law.”

The CRTC News Release can be found here.

To read more on CASL, please see the following: Canada's Anti-Spam Law Means New Set of Rules for Businesses and New CRTC Guidelines on Complying with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation: Who to Identify and What Your Opt-Out Mechanism Should Look Like

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Jennifer McKenzie Jennifer McKenzie
B.A. (Hons.), LL.B.
416.957.1628  email Jennifer McKenzie