What happened to Compu-Finder?

Current CRTC insignia

Current CRTC insignia (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission announced today that they have issued their first penalty against someone for sending email in violation of Canada’s anti-spam law. The penalty is substantial (C$1.1 million, or roughly US$881,700 at today’s exchange rate), but isn’t anywhere near the C$40 million potential maximum penality. 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. In fact, The Canadian Press quotes the CRTC’s Chief Enforcement and Compliance Officer as saying that “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.”
    • As a result of 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 they were doing and they failed to do so.
  2. Is anyone surprised?
    • I suppose that depends on what you mean by “surprised.” The CRTC is only prosecuting 4 violations, so the penalty works out to around C$275,000 per violation.
    • A “violation” appears to follow what the Email Experience Council and Direct Marketing Association refer to as a “send instance.” This may be surprising to some activists who were hoping that it might be per individual email and had dreams of shocking penalty amounts as a result.
    • 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.
  3. How do I avoid this happening to me?
    • Obviously, the first thing that you should do is consult with your own 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.

Bibliography

  1. CRTC Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer issues $1.1 million penalty to Compu-Finder for spamming Canadians, Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (2015, March 5). Retrieved March 5, 2015 from http://news.gc.ca/web/article-en.do?mthd=tp&crtr.page=1&nid=944159&crtr.tp1D=1.
  2. Laura Atkins (2015, March 5), CRTC fines Compu-Finder $1.1 million for CASL violations. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from https://wordtothewise.com/2015/03/crtc-fines-compu-finder-1-1-million-casl-violations/.
  3. CRTC issues first anti-spam penalty: $1.1M fine for Compu-Finder, The Canadian Press (2015, March 5). Retrieved March 5, 2015 from CTV News: http://www.ctvnews.ca/sci-tech/crtc-issues-first-anti-spam-penalty-1-1m-fine-for-compu-finder-1.2265527.
  4. Email Experience Council and Direct Marketing Association (2014, July 1), A Digital Marketer’s Guide to Canada’s Anti-Spam Law. Retrieved March 5, 2015 from http://thedma.org/wp-content/uploads/DMA_and_Email_Experience_Council_CASL-_Guide_2014.pdf.
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