On January 22, 2020, Josephine Palumbo, the Deputy Commissioner of the Deceptive Marketing Practices Directorate at the Canadian Competition Bureau (the “Bureau”), spoke at the Canadian Institute’s 26th Annual Advertising and Marketing Law Conference.

During her remarks, titled Honest Advertising in the Digital Age, Ms. Palumbo identified the Bureau’s current enforcement priorities as they relate to advertising and marketing in the digital economy. Among other things, these priorities include:

  • influencer marketing;
  • fake online reviews;
  • dishonest information about data privacy; and
  • dishonest price claims.

Given the repeated statements that active enforcement in the digital economy will be an area of primary focus for the Bureau over the next several years, it’s imperative that businesses carefully consider the requirements of the Competition Act (the “Act”) when advertising and marketing their products online. Failure to do so could result in lengthy Bureau investigations and costly proceedings before the Competition Tribunal or the courts, which, in turn, could lead to fines, reduced sales, damaged reputation and class actions. In this regard, it’s worth highlighting the following two enforcement-related statements made by Ms. Palumbo during her remarks:

  • “From April to September 2019, the Bureau launched 16 cases, and we continue to work on 37 active cases, all related to the digital economy.”
  • “It’s true that we may not always win cases, but it’s important to take them on regardless – so potential targets know that we are watching, and to bring clarity to the law.”

To help businesses better understand the requirements in the Act, we will, over the course of the next month, be publishing a series of blogs discussing the enforcement priorities noted above. Each of the blogs will describe the conduct in question, identify the provisions of the Act applicable to the conduct in question and provide some general guidance on what businesses can do to help ensure that their marketing and advertising practices comply with the Act.

In the meantime, if you have questions about the advertising and marketing provisions in the Act – whether related to the digital economy or otherwise – you can reach out to any member of Fasken’s Antitrust/Competition Marketing group. Our group has significant experience advising clients on all aspects of Canadian competition law.