$100,000 in penalties for SMS messages non-compliant with CASL

A commitment to the CRTC

May 1st, 2018, the CRTC announced via news release that companies 9118-9076 QUÉBEC INC. and 9310-6359 QUÉBEC INC., operating as 514-TICKETS, whose principal activity is the resale of sports, cultural, and event tickets, has accepted an undertaking for alleged violations of the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). Under the latter, the companies pledged to pay a financial indemnity of $100,000 ($25,000 paid to the Receiver General for Canada and $75,000 in rebate coupons offered to clients).

This innovative form of sanction, combining customer discounts and fines, demonstrates that the CRTC’s intent is not to punish wrongdoers, but to force them to adopt CASL-compliant practices, which is inherent in the implementation of a CASL compliance program.

CASL’s application to text messages

This sanction is a milestone in the history of CASL compliance: it is the first time the CRTC has fined a company for violating the LAW by sending commercial electronic messages (CEMs) via text messages. 514-TICKETS would have, from July 3rd , 2014 to November 26th , 2016, sent CEMs via text message “without having obtained the consent of the recipients, and by not providing the necessary information to identify the sender, nor the information necessary to contact the sender“. More specifically, the majority of text CEMs were messages requesting consent to receive subsequent commercial offers.

The CRTC reiterated, in its news release, that CASL applies to any message sent —not only to an email address, but also to a telephone number account, or email account on social media— that is intended to encourage participation in a commercial activity.

If you don’t have consent, you cannot request consent

514-TICKETS should have, like any company sending CEMs, had prior consent before communicating with the recipients, but also include in its messages the information necessary to identify the sender, as well as the information to contact the sender. 514-TICKETS should also have included an unsubscribe mechanism, allowing the recipient to signal their desire to no longer receive communications from the company.

The Spam Reporting Centre is as efficient as ever

In this case, the CRTC’s investigation was initiated by reports sent to the Spam Reporting Center (SRC). This government authority transmits information received from consumers and other bodies, to the CRTC, the Competition Bureau, and/or the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada depending on the nature of the alleged violation.

The importance of a compliance program

In their commitment to the CRTC, 9118-9076 QUÉBEC INC. and 9310-6359 QUÉBEC INC., have also been required to implement a CASL compliance program, which includes: “an audit and review of current compliance practices […], as well as various other monitoring and auditing measures, including reporting mechanisms to CRTC staff regarding the implementation of the program.”

If your company has not yet been investigated by any of the CASL enforcement authorities, there is still time to implement your compliance program and protect your business before it’s too late.

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