Investigation Leads to Major Corrective Action Under Canada’s Anti-Spam Law

This post was written prior to our January 2017 merger, under our previous firm name, MacPherson Leslie & Tyerman LLP.

Less than three weeks after announcing a $1.1 million dollar penalty under Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (“CASL”), the CRTC has announced that dating website operator Plentyoffish Media Inc. (“POF”) will be paying $48,000 as part of an undertaking for allegedly breaching CASL.

After receiving complaints submitted by users, the CRTC conducted an investigation of POF’s emailing activities. The commercial electronic messages in question were emails sent by POF to registered users of its website. POF was alleged to be in breach of CASL because the messages did not contain an unsubscribe mechanism that was “set out clearly and prominently” and could be “readily performed” both of which are required under the legislation.

While the violation has not been proven, POF has agreed to enter into an undertaking to pay $48,000 and develop a compliance program. That program is to include employee training and education and corporate policies and procedures.

In its news release announcing the POF undertaking, the CRTC took the opportunity to stress the broad powers that it has to enforce compliance with CASL:

The CRTC can discuss corrective actions with individuals, firms or organizations, which may lead to an undertaking that includes an amount to be paid and other corrective measures. As part of its powers, the CRTC can also issue warning letters, preservation demands, notices to produce, restraining orders and notices of violation.

A Reminder that Everyone Must Comply

The investigation and undertaking by POF sends a clear message that the CRTC will investigate breaches of CASL by legitimate organizations and not just conventional “spammers”. The Vancouver-based POF is one of the top 1,000 most visited websites in the world and claims to add 50,000 new users per day. Aside from complying with the unsubscribe requirements, POF appears to have been otherwise compliant with CASL, as messages appear to have been sent to users who had consented to receiving them (at least initially).

Organizations that use electronic messages for marketing should ensure they have employee training programs and corporate processes and policies in place to avoid the significant penalties and business disruptions that can result from an investigation.