It was announced on June 25 that Matthew Hovila of Edmonton was convicted by a jury of engaging in criminal conduct under the Competition Act arising from his operation of a website business.
Mr. Hovila operated online job opportunities scams through oilcareer.com and governmentaljobs.com. According to press reports, complaints were first received in 1999 and the Bureau commenced its investigation of Mr. Hovila's businesses in 2000. The services offered at these websites were described as "resume distribution services."
The Commissioner alleged that false and misleading representations were made to consumers with respect to the size and scope of the business, the identity and number of potential employers to which resumes were distributed, the relationship that the websites enjoyed with the potential employers, a supposed endorsement by an independent watchdog agency, the price at which the services were ordinarily sold and the availability of either a risk-free or money-back guaranty. Additionally, it was alleged that there were numerous false consumer testimonials posted to these websites. Mr. Hovila and his company, Strategic Ecomm Inc. and its affiliates, agreed to a consent agreement in 2006. Pursuant to the consent agreement, an administrative monetary penalty of $100,000 was paid, a corrective notice was to be published and future compliance promised.
Mr. Hovila continued his businesses after the consent agreement was registered. In 2011, Mr. Hovila was arrested and charged with a series of criminal offences alleging that his website businesses were in contravention of the Competition Act and that his behaviour was thus also in contravention of the registered consent agreement. Mr. Hovila also faced charges relating to the possession of property obtained by crime and the laundering of the proceeds of crime.
After a jury trial, Mr. Hovila was convicted and could face a fine in the discretion of the court and/or a prison term of up to 14 years for the advertising offences, as well as an unlimited fine or a prison term of up to 5 years for the breach of the registered consent agreement. This is the first conviction for the contravention of a registered consent agreement. These charges for non-compliance arose out of the Bureau's program of monitoring compliance with registered consent agreements.
Mr. Hovila will be sentenced at a later date.