On March 25, 2015, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced that a Canadian-based company that provides a popular online dating service had paid C$48,000 for an alleged violation of Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL). The CRTC had launched an investigation into the company’s practices further to consumer complaints, which alleged that the company sent commercial emails between July and early October 2014 to registered users of the online service with an unsubscribe mechanism which could not be readily performed. According to the CRTC, the company updated its unsubscribe mechanism so as to comply with the legislation once made aware of the investigation.
CASL generally requires that commercial electronic messages contain both a clear and readily performed unsubscribe mechanism and prescribed sender identification information, in addition to compliance with prior consent requirements. Where a violation is established, a company may be required to pay financial penalties under CASL. However, in the event of an alleged violation, a company also may enter into an undertaking (i.e., settlement) with the CRTC.
In this case, the company agreed to make the payment pursuant to a voluntary undertaking entered into with the CRTC. The company also undertook to comply with the requirements under CASL and its related regulations, to ensure that any third party authorized to send commercial electronic messages on its behalf complies with these requirements, and to implement a compliance program.
This represents the second reported instance of enforcement under the messaging provisions of CASL since their entry into force in July 2014, and the first monetary payment. The CRTC is also seeking a $1.1 million penalty against a Quebec-based company for allegedly sending commercial electronic messages without recipients’ consent and failing to include a proper unsubscribe mechanism, and has indicated that several other investigations are underway. In addition, the Competition Bureau (Bureau) has commenced proceedings against two companies under the deceptive marketing provisions of the Competition Act which, pursuant to amendments that came into force under CASL, now expressly authorize the Bureau to regulate misleading advertising in electronic messages.
For more information, please contact Theo Ling, Arlan Gates, Eva Warden or Jonathan Tam.