CRTC Treats Email Marketers Worse than Telemarketers—Far Worse
By Ken Magill
We all know life isn’t fair but this is ridiculous.
The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has been far rougher on average on alleged violators of the country’s anti-spam law than it has been on alleged violators of its Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules.
One web page tells the story.
The CRTC’s Notices of Violation 2015 page lists 22 fines, all but one of which were levied for violations of the country’s Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules and its National Do-Not-Call list.
Three of the fines were six figures, the largest of which was $260,000.
Twelve of the fines were five figures—from $14,000 to $40,000. Six of the fines were four figures—from $3,000 to $9,000.
One fine was seven figures—the $1.1 million fine the CRTC levied against business-to-business marketer Compu-Finder for alleged violations of the Canadian anti-spam law, or CASL, in March.
So, generally the CRTC issues fines in the four- and five-figure range for telemarketing violations. And when CRTC telemarketing fines hit six figures, they rarely top $250,000.
The 2015 violations page does not list the $48,000 and $150,000 fines, respectively, levied against dating site PlentyofFish.com and Porter Airlines for alleged violations of CASL this year.
This might indicate that not all of the telemarketing enforcement actions are listed, either.
Indeed, according to trade publication Telemarketing Software, “Altogether, the CRTC issued 32 notices of violation totaling over $2 million in monetary penalties, 16 warning letters and five citations. … The CRTC is claiming a banner 2014-2015 year for fines against telemarketing violators.”
A banner 2014-15 year for the CRTC against telemarketers is 32 fines totaling more than $2 million. And yet the first fine issued under CASL was $1.1 million.
For perspective, the largest fine ever issued by the CRTC for telemarketing violations was $1.3 million against Bell Canada in 2010.
For further perspective, the average of all the fines listed on the CRTC’s 2015 violations page, other than the one against Compu-Finder, is $48,000. Minus the three six-figure fines, the average of all the non-Compu-Finder fines is $17,000.
Even the lowest fine issued so far under CASL—the $48,000 the CRTC fined PlentyofFish—is equal to the average of all of the CRTC’s telemarketing fines listed on the 2015 violations page including the three $200,000-plus ones.
The PlentyofFish fine is significantly larger than 18 of the 22 fines listed—the ones lower than the few that hit six figures. The $150,000 Porter fine is vastly larger than those same 18 fines.
Moreover, the largest of the six-figure telemarketing fines on the 2015 violations page is just over a quarter that of the $1.1 million fine issued against Compu-Finder.
Nothing listed on that page comes even close to touching the $1.1 million whopper against Compu-Finder.
It is entirely possible that the disparity is the result of the ways the rules are written in Canada.
But even if that is the case, Canada is treating the far more pernicious act of telemarketing to people who have specifically asked not to be called far more lightly than the comparatively trivial nuisance act of sending non-compliant commercial email.
Compu-Finder’s a B-to-B marketer. It is highly unlikely consumer complaints drove the CRTC’s action against it.
Unlike in the case of illegal telemarketing calls into people’s homes, spam filters keep out garbage email quite well with little to no effort required by recipients.
And in the case of B-to-B spam, such as that which Compu-Finder allegedly sent, corporate IT departments can block any email that even mentions the Compu-Finder name.
One thing is clear: The CRTC is treating minor email-marketing infractions far more harshly than it has historically treated egregious telemarketing infractions.
The Canadian dollar ain’t called the loonie for nothing.
Author’s note: I did not come up with the idea for this article. A reader who did not want to be named tipped me off. To that reader: Thank you for the lead.