Porter Airlines hits turbulence with $150,000 penalty for CASL spam violations

Porter Airlines has hit some turbulence with its email marketing practices and is the latest company hit with a hefty payment under the Canadian anti-spam legislation (CASL).

According to the Canada Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the Toronto-based airline has agreed to pay $150,000 as part of an undertaking for alleged CASL violations and improve its existing compliance program. Porter is alleged to have sent commercial emails between July 2014 and February 2015 that didn’t fully comply with all CASL requirements, such as unsubscribe mechanisms, the provision of contact information and proof of consent.

As soon as Porter became aware of the CRTC’s investigation and the alleged incidences of non-compliance, the government body said the airline immediately cooperated and took corrective action.

“We appreciate that Porter Airlines took corrective action once it became aware of our investigation,” said Manon Bombardier, CRTC chief compliance and enforcement officer, in a statement. “The company has voluntarily entered into an undertaking and committed to comply with Canada’s anti-spam law. This is a great outcome for Canadians, and we encourage them to continue to report suspected violations to the Spam Reporting Centre.”

Porter Airlines spokesperson Brad Cicero told the Toronto Star that a move to a new email platform caused the errors to occur and not be immediately detected by Porter’s existing compliance regime.

“When we found out, we made the changes … they haven’t recurred since then,” Cicero said.

Porter marks the third time a company has been hit in their pocketbooks for CASL violations, and is likely the first company recognizable to most Canadians. Quebec technology training company Compu-Finder was the first hit with a $1.1 million fine in March – the only company fined to date under CASL for the egregious nature of the violations and its refusal to cooperate with the CRTC investigation. Later that month, dating website operator Plentyoffish Media Inc. agreed to pay $48,000 after the CRTC flagged issues with its unsubscribe mechanism.

The Porter case shows that companies need to have a strict CASL compliance regime in place, as even unintentional mistakes can lead to substantial payouts under the legislation.

“This case is an important reminder that to be fully compliant with the law, proof of consent is required for each electronic address,” said Bombardier. “Some businesses are under the mistaken impression that they are compliant with the law by relying on general business practices or policies as proof of consent for the majority of the electronic addresses to which they send their commercial emails. This is simply not the case.”

There are steps companies can take to avoid being the next company to run afoul of CASL. Email marketing firm Constant Contact offers three tips: have permission, respect the consent, and follow the rules.

“All (CASL) is doing is asking that we take a look at what we’re doing and make sure we’re compliant,” said Lisa Kember, regional director for Canada East at Constant Contact. “E-mail is still unmatched by any other marketing channel and reducing spam just makes it that much more valuable.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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