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What happened to Compu-Finder?

The CTRC said today that it has issued its first penalty against someone for sending emails violating Canada’s anti-spam law. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, ​CRTC Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer Issues $1.1 Million Penalty to Compu-Finder for Spamming Canadians​, Government of Canada (2015), (last visited Jun 2, 2024). The penalty is substantial (C$1.1 million, or roughly US$881,700 at today’s exchange rate) but not near the C$40 million potential maximum penalty. Still, the size of the penalty is certain to raise some eyebrows and a few questions.

  1. What happened?
    • The CRTC says that Compu-Finder did two things wrong:
      1. Compu-Finder sent email to recipients without prior consent.
      2. Compu-Finder failed to unsubscribe people who requested to be unsubscribed. The Canadian Press quotes the CRTC’s Chief Enforcement and Compliance Officer as saying, “People were unsubscribing and they were still getting emails, and some even made additional efforts to contact the company to say, ‘I unsubscribed, I’m still receiving emails,’ and despite those additional efforts they were still getting emails.” The Canadian Press, ​CRTC Issues First Anti-Spam Penalty: $1.1M Fine for Compu-Finder​, (2015), (last visited Jun 2, 2024).
    • Due to these poor practices, mail from Compu-Finder constituted more than 25% of the spam reported to Canadian regulators.
    • The CRTC gave Compu-Finder an opportunity to correct what it was doing, and it failed to do so.
  2. Is anyone surprised?
    • I suppose that depends on what you mean by “surprised.” The CRTC is only prosecuting four violations, so the penalty is around C$275,000 per violation.
    • A “violation” appears to follow what the Email Experience Council calls a “send instance.” Email Experience Council & Direct Marketing Association, ​A Digital Marketer’s Guide to Canada’s Anti-Spam Law “CASL,”​ DMA – Direct Marketing Association – Data Driven Marketing (2014), (last visited Jun 2, 2024). This may surprise some activists who were hoping it might be per individual email and had dreams of shocking penalty amounts.
    • Most people think of spam as something received by consumers. As Laura Atkins points out, this was a fine against a company sending primarily B2B mail. Laura Atkins, ​CRTC Fines Compu-Finder $1.1 Million for CASL Violations​, Word to the Wise (2015), (last visited Mar 15, 2015).
  3. How do I avoid this happening to me?
    • The first thing that you should do is consult with your legal counsel. They will be able to help you figure out what you have to comply with and put together a program that will make sure that you comply with the requirements of the law.
    • In this instance, though, the violations appear to be about two things:
      1. If you’re sending mail to Canada, make absolutely certain that you have consent.
      2. Make absolutely certain that you have a working unsubscribe process.
Mickey Chandler