Volkswagen and Audi settled environmental marketing claim with $15 million penalty

Vanessa Leung

On December 19, 2016, Volkswagen Group Canada Inc. (VW) and Audi Canada Inc. (Audi) entered into a consent agreement with the Commissioner of Competition to resolve the Commissioner’s concerns that VW and Audi had made false or misleading environmental marketing claims about certain of its 2.0 litre diesel vehicles. The consent agreement is one component of a broader Canadian settlement relating to VW’s and Audi’s allegedly misleading environmental claims.

The Bureau alleged that software installed in the affected VW and Audi vehicles could detect a test being conducted and alter the operation of the vehicle during the test to reduce nitrogen oxide emissions. The Bureau also alleged, however, that during normal use, the nitrogen oxide emissions would exceed the amounts at which the vehicle had been certified. The Bureau concluded that the statements, warranties and/or guaranties made about the performance or efficacy of these vehicles were false and misleading in a material respect, and were not based on adequate and proper testing, contrary to the Competition Act

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Competition Bureau questions: Why don't we see more health care advertising?

William Wu and Vanessa Leung - 

Due to regulations by provincial governments and self-regulating professional bodies, Canadian health care professionals face significant restrictions on how they are permitted to advertise their services in the marketplace. For example, price advertising, where professionals advertise the prices they will charge for particular services, is often limited; comparison advertising, where a professional compares his or her services and skills to those of another professional, is generally prohibited.

On October 4, 2016, the Competition Bureau published a report assessing the effect of advertising restrictions on the health care marketplace. The report suggests that advertising restrictions, while well-intentioned, may result in unnecessarily high prices for consumers, and calls on regulatory bodies to begin collecting data to conduct further empirical studies on the effect of advertising restrictions.

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No more "unlimited" calling and Internet services: Comwave resolves misleading telecom service and price representations

William Wu and Vanessa Leung - 

On September 13, 2016, the Competition Bureau reached a consent agreement with Comwave Network Inc., which resolved the Bureau’s concerns over allegations of false or misleading advertising by Comwave in respect of representations made to public on its telecommunication services and prices.  The Bureau had three sets of concerns:

1. Comwave allegedly made representations to the public about the prices of the telecommunications services it provided, and then allegedly charged consumers additional fees that were only disclosed to consumers in fine print disclaimers and during its telephone sales intake process. The Bureau concluded that the disclaimers and the intake process were insufficient to alter the misleading general impression created by the prices advertised by Comwave, which were in fact not attainable due to the additional fees;

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CRTC gets frosted at Kellogg's over email violations

David Elder

In the fifth, and most recent, enforcement decision relating to compliance with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation, the CRTC has announced that Kellogg Canada has voluntarily entered into an undertaking respecting alleged non-compliance, which includes payment of $60,000 in penalties.

The undertaking resulted from an alleged failure to obtain consent from recipients prior to sending commercial electronic messages.  The alleged violations apparently occurred over an 11-week in late 2014.

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CRTC partners with global agencies to enforce spam and telemarketing rules

David Elder - 

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with 10 domestic and global enforcement agencies to aid in the enforcement of spam and telemarketing laws.  However, while the announcement is certainly a step in the right direction, many of the countries that produce the most spam were not at the table.

The agreement is intended to promote cooperation between the various enforcement agencies, and includes commitments by each signatory to share information and intelligence regarding unsolicited communications, where permitted by the laws of its jurisdiction.  

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Telus agrees to pay $7.34 million in customer rebates to resolve false and misleading advertising allegations

Jeff Brown and Margaret Kim - 

On December 30, 2015, the Competition Bureau announced that it had reached a consent agreement with Telus Communications Inc., one of Canada’s “Big Three” wireless carriers, over allegations of false or misleading advertisements for premium text messaging and rich content services, such as trivia, daily horoscopes, and ring tones. 

As part of the consent agreement, Telus will issue rebates in an aggregate amount up to $7.34 million to certain current and former wireless customers, who the Bureau alleged were unknowingly charged extra for the text message services. The Bureau noted that the amount for consumer rebates made available under the consent agreement is the most obtained by it under any consent agreement to date.  In March 2015,  Rogers Communications Inc. settled with the Bureau, agreeing to pay $5.42 million in refunds to customers for the same fees as part of the same investigation. Similar proceedings against Bell Canada and the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association are ongoing.

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CRTC battles forces of dorkness, takes action against notorious botnet

David Elder - 

In the second such announcement in less than a week, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has publicly announced an advanced investigative action -- this time against an unnamed organization suspected of involvement in the distribution the notorious and widely distributed Win32/Dorkbot malware.

The CRTC announced that, with the assistance of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP), it had served its first-ever warrant under Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) to “take down” a command-and-control server located in Toronto, Ontario as part of what the Commission has characterized as a coordinated international effort.

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Knock, Knock. Who's There? The CRTC

David Elder -

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has announced that it has executed an inspection warrant to enter and inspect an unidentified property in Brampton, Ontario, as part of an ongoing investigation of what the Commission has characterized as a significant telemarketing operation.

The company under investigation is alleged to be making unauthorized calls to numbers registered on the National Do Not Call List (DNCL) for the purpose of selling anti-virus software.

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Whither the "Nigerian Prince"? Another Canadian business pays penalty under anti-spam law

David Elder - 

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications (CRTC) has announced its third settlement for alleged violations of the anti-spam law, and again, the announcement relates to a well-known Canadian business, rather than an indiscriminate or malicious spammer.

In this most recent case, Rogers Media Inc. (RMI) agreed to pay an Administrative Monetary Penalty of $200,000 as part of an undertaking to resolve alleged violations of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL).

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Privacy Commissioner study finds compliance gaps with online behavioural advertising

David Elder - 

New research released by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) suggests that most advertising organizations placing behaviourally targeted online advertising are meeting privacy requirements, although the report also suggests there are a number of areas for improvement.

The study showed that most advertising organizations are providing some form of notification to users, as well as an opt-out mechanism; however, the research also suggests that some opt-out procedures can be confusing or cumbersome, and some of the advertising organizations are continuing to serve ads based on sensitive topics.

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Red Light: Competition Bureau alleges misleading advertising by car rental firms

Jennifer Rad -

The Competition Bureau has filed an application with the Competition Tribunal against Aviscar and Budgetcar, and their parent company, Avis Budget Group Inc., alleging deceptive marketing practices contrary to several provisions of the Competition Act. The Bureau’s investigation into the pricing practices of Avis and Budget, two of the largest rental car companies in Canada, uncovered price representations which the Bureau considers to be false or misleading in a material respect, dating back to 1997.

In its Notice of Application, the Bureau submits that the prices advertised to the public by Avis and Budget are “not in fact attainable,” thereby creating a false general impression about prices and discounts. The Bureau submits that actual rental costs could be up to 35% higher than advertised once “non-optional” fees imposed by both companies are included. Although these “non-optional” fees are known to Avis and Budget, the Bureau alleges that the companies choose to exclude them from advertised prices and/or discounts. The Bureau also alleges that the “non-optional” fees, once revealed to the customer, are characterized as charges being imposed on customers by governments or other third-parties, when in fact they are Avis’ and Budget’s own charges related to the cost of doing business.

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CRTC sends shot across the bow to international telemarketers; issues $200,000 fine to US company selling cruise vacations

David Elder

In a precedent-setting ruling, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has issued its first penalty to a foreign-based telemarketer for violations of the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules.

The administrative monetary penalty (AMP) was paid by a Florida company as part of a settlement for making unsolicited telemarketing calls via an automatic dialing-announcing device (ADAD) to offer cruises to Canadians, many of whom have their phone number registered on the National Do Not Call List (DNCL). In addition, the company did not possess a valid exemption to the National DNCL

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First blood: CRTC imposes $1.1 million fine in first ever finding under anti-spam law

David Elder -

Eight months after Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) came into force, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has made public its first ever finding of non-compliance with the Act, issuing an administrative monetary penalty of $1.1 million against Compu-Finder, a firm that provides training and consulting services.

Surprisingly, this much anticipated enforcement action was not against a firm targeting consumers, as many had suspected, but rather was directed at a firm sending email messages to businesses to promote various training courses related to topics such as management, social media and professional development.   It is believed by many that the overwhelming majority of the more than 250,000 complaints received by the CRTC since the law came into force have been from consumers.  In the case at hand, the CRTC indicated that over one quarter of all complaints about the training industry sector received by the Spam Reporting Centre related to Compu-Finder, although it is not known how many complaints were received.

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Competition Bureau's Fair Business Practices Branch provides insight into key policies and enforcement issues

As advertising and marketing, both traditional and online, continue to be a large part of our economy, it is important to keep up to date with what the Competition Bureau considers to be fair advertising and marketing business practices. Senior Deputy Commissioner of Competition Lisa Campbell and Major Case Director and Strategic Policy Advisor Brendon Ross attended a breakfast seminar at Stikeman Elliott to speak to clients and answer questions regarding priorities of the Fair Business Practices Branch and recent enforcement issues in misleading advertising and marketing.

Canada finalizes anti-spam regulations; new anti-spam rules in effect July 2014

David Elder -

The Canadian government has finalized long-awaited regulations made under Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL), announcing at the same time that the core of the new anti-spam regime will come into force on Canada Day, July 1, 2014, while other provisions will come into force the following year, and some will not be effective until 2017.

While the final regulations do include a number of last-minute revisions that respond to concerns raised by Canadian businesses, the new regime promises to have a significant negative impact on many businesses that have come to rely on electronic marketing. 

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