CRTC issues $1.1 million penalty to the first CASL-offender

On March 5, 2015, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) issued its first penalty under Canada’s Anti-Spam legislation (CASL) to a Quebec-based corporate training company, Compu-Finder. CASL came into effect July 1, 2014 and prohibits transmission of “commercial electronic messages” (CEMs) that encourages participation in a commercial activity, without the consent of the recipient.

The CRTC found that Compu-Finder sent CEMs without the recipient’s consent as well as emails in which the unsubscribe mechanisms did not function properly. The CEMs sent by Compu-Finder promoted various training courses to businesses relating to topics such as management, social media and professional development. Compu-Finder was flagged for investigation as it accounted for more than one quarter of the spam complaints received by the CRTC relating to training companies. According to the CRTC, it did not make any effort to change its business practices after CASL came into force and continued to send unsolicited CEMs to email addresses it found by searching websites. Compu-Finder has 30 days to submit written representations to the CRTC contesting the ruling or pay the penalty in the amount of $1.1 million.

The CRTC considers municipal governments to be potentially subject to CASL, depending on their activities, as stated in FAQs page on its website:

“CASL does not apply to the activities of the federal, provincial and territorial governments. CASL does apply, however, to crown corporations, including municipal governments, when the corporation is acting in the course of any commercial activity” (emphasis added).

Since breaches of CASL can carry severe penalties, it is recommended that municipalities ensure their existing electronic communications comply with CASL.