March saw the CRTC begin fining companies for breaching the requirements of the CASL legislation which took effect last year.
The very first fine was levied against Compu-Finder of Quebec and was a whopping $1.1 million (read the CRTC release here
). Before you panic, you should know that Compu-Finder had been spamming Canadian's for years with complaints dating back to 2008 according to a report on CBC.ca
. In the CRTC notice, they were cited for both sending email to people who had not subscribed, and having a non functioning unsubscribe mechanism.
The second ruling was against dating site Plenty of Fish and was $48,000. Still a substantial amount but nothing like the Compu-Finder fine which seems intended to force them out of business. Plenty of Fish did not have an easy to use unsubscribe mechanism. PoF likely mitigated their penalty by updating their unsubscribe mechanism after being made aware of the CRTC investigation (read the CRTC release here
The difference in these two fines confirms for me that the CRTC is going after the most blatant offenders and most merchants who are following best practices have little to fear. PoF should have known better and invested a little of time and money to update their standard email footer. For a company of their size, the fine was enough to hurt, but not enough to do lasting harm. Compu-Finder on the other hand is likely to cease operations and if they spring up again under a different name will definitely think twice before using the same "marketing" techniques.
In the meantime just remember these two basic rules to stay out of hot water.
- Get consent (using double opt-in for non-customers)
- Make unsubscribe obvious and effective.