CRTC issues $1.1M penalty to Compu-Finder, first fine under anti-spam law

Ottawa's anti-spam law took effect July 1, 2014. MIKE CLARKE/AFP/Getty Images

TORONTO – The CRTC has issued its first fine under Canada’s new anti-spam legislation. Quebec-based Compu-Finder was handed a $1.1-million penalty Thursday for violating the law, which requires companies to obtain explicit consent from users before sending them emails.

The CRTC alleges Compu-Finder sent users commercial emails without their consent and didn’t allow them to unsubscribe from the emails.

“Compu-Finder flagrantly violated the basic principles of the law by continuing to send unsolicited commercial electronic messages after the law came into force to email addresses it found by scouring websites,” read a statement from Manon Bombardier, chief compliance and enforcement officer at the CRTC.

READ MORE: Why Canada’s anti-spam legislation is creating so much spam

“Complaints submitted to the Spam Reporting Centre clearly indicate that consumers didn’t find Compu-Finder’s offerings relevant to them.”

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The law, which came into effect in July 2014, requires businesses to obtain explicit consent from a user in order to send them an email.

Implied consent – when a company assumes you have given consent by providing your email address when making a purchase, for example – is no longer good enough.

Companies must also clearly identify themselves in each message and allow consumers to unsubscribe from digital mailings.

Businesses that violate the law face penalties of up to $10 million per violation, while individuals could be fined up to $1 million per infraction.

Compu-Finder has 30 days to contest the ruling, or face the $1.1-million penalty.

READ MORE: Canadian business groups push back against anti-spam law

“By issuing this Notice of Violation, my goal is to encourage a change of behaviour on the part of Compu-Finder such that it adapts its business practices to the modern reality of electronic commerce and the requirements of the anti-spam law,” Bombardier said.

“We take violations to the law very seriously and expect businesses to be in compliance.”

Previously, Bombardier admitted that the new law would be hard to police due to the sheer volume of complaints the CRTC expected to receive.

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The CRTC said it would focus on the most severe types of violations.

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