CRTC finds something fishy about dating site's unsubscribe mechanism, operator nets $48,000 fine under anti-spam law

25 mars 2015

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In its second publicly announced decision under Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL), the CRTC has issued a $48,000 administrative monetary penalty against Plentyoffish Media Inc., operator of the Plenty of Fish online dating site, for sending commercial electronic messages (CEMs) that contained a deficient unsubscribe mechanism.

In addition to generally requiring consent for the sending of CEMs (subject to certain narrow exceptions), CASL requires that all CEMs must meet certain requirements as to form, including the provision of an unsubscribe mechanism.  Related regulations require that the unsubscribe mechanism be set out clearly and prominently, and that the mechanism be capable of being readily performed.

In its media release, the CRTC indicated that the messages sent by Plenty of Fish included an unsubscribe mechanism that was not clearly and prominently set out, and which could not be readily performed.  No further details have been provided as to the nature of the non-compliance, leaving some uncertainty as to what type of placement and presentation of an unsubscribe mechanism will be considered to be compliant.

Upon being made aware of the investigation by the CRTC, which was prompted by user complaints, Plenty of Fish modified its unsubscribe mechanism to comply with the law, also  entering into an undertaking with the CRTC to develop and implement a compliance program to ensure future compliance with the anti-spam law.

Interestingly, the complaints against Plenty of Fish related to CEMs sent during the first few months that that the new law was in force, suggesting that the regulator may be not be particularly inclined to leniency during the early days of the new regime, as some had expected.  The portions of CASL relating to CEMs came into force on July 1, 2014.

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