Responding to Online Brand Attacks

Guest post by John Simpson (Shift Law) Online threats to commercial reputations are on the rise. These include “attack sites”, “gripe sites” (e.g., RipOff Report), cyber-libel via social media, domain name high-jacking, meta tag high-jacking and defamatory email campaigns. Online brand and reputation attacks are easy and inexpensive to wage and they can be devastatingly effective. When confronted with an online attack to its brand, a business has a number of options. It can respond with a “corrective campaign”, hire an online reputation management expert, hire a lawyer to write demand letters to the attacker (if known) or to Internet intermediaries or commence a lawsuit – or none of or all of the above. The best option will often include legal action. Online reputation and brand attacks can give rise to a number of causes of action against the persons directly involved as well as, in certain cases, the Internet … read more »

Four Year Mobile Cramming Case Ends With $11 Million Bell, Trade Association Settlements

Earlier today, the Competition Bureau (Bureau) announced two final settlements in its four-year year litigation against Canada’s major telecoms and the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA). See: Bell customers to receive up to $11.82 million as part of Competition Bureau agreement. In making the announcement, the Commissioner of Competition said: “We are pleased that the agreements reached with Bell and the CWTA bring an end to the legal proceedings initiated by the Competition Bureau. Trust in the digital economy is vital for Canadians in the 21st century. As with the settlements reached with Rogers and Telus, Bell’s settlement represents a significant win for consumers and will deter others from engaging in misleading advertising that results in unauthorized charges to consumers.” This case, which was first commenced by the Bureau in 2012, involved allegations that Canada’s three largest telecoms (Rogers, Telus and Bell) made or permitted materially false or misleading representations … read more »

Filing Competition Bureau & Other Regulatory Complaints

I frequently receive inquires and calls relating to filing a competition, advertising, consumer protection or other regulatory complaint. Companies, individuals or other types of organizations may want to file a complaint relating to a competitor, manufacturer or supplier, retailer or other market participant based on potentially anti-competitive or misleading/deceptive conduct in the marketplace. A complaint may be based on direct harm in the marketplace (for example, competitor conduct that is causing damages) or simply from a concern about a company’s or individual’s activities are violating federal, provincial or local laws. In this respect, there are, depending on the type of matter, a range of enforcement agencies where regulatory complaints may be filed. These include the Competition Bureau, provincial consumer protection agencies, fraud enforcers (for example, the RCMP, police or Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre), Commissioner for Complaints for Telecommunications, CRTC (for example, for telemarketing complaints) or the Spam Reporting Centre. See below … read more »

Competition Compliance for Associations: CSAE 2016 Winter Summit

I am pleased to be a guest speaker at the CSAE (Canadian Society of Association Executives) Trillium Chapter’s 2016 Winter Summit in Burlington on February 4th. I will be co-presenting an interactive seminar on the Competition Bureau’s new approach to competition compliance for associations together with Mark Katz (Davies Ward Phillips & Vineberg LLP) and Nadia Brault, Director of Compliance at the Competition Bureau’s Competition Promotion Branch. Overview Last June, the Competition Bureau finalized its new approach to Canadian competition law compliance and issued a new Corporate Compliance Programs Bulletin.  The Bureau’s new approach includes some major changes including for associations.  Some of the Bureau’s key association related recommendations include that associations adopt credible and effective compliance programs and that companies consider compliance training for personnel attending association events.  The Bureau’s new compliance materials also include specific compliance guidelines for associations.  This presentation will tell you what you need to … read more »

Record $7.3 Million Settlement in Mobile Cramming Case: Cautionary Tale for Partnering with Affiliates?

On December 30, 2015, Telus agreed to a $7.3 million settlement with the Competition Bureau (“Bureau”) as part of the Bureau’s ongoing case against major Canadian telecoms for allegedly misleading advertisements for premium text messages in pop-up ads, apps and in social media. See: Telus customers to receive $7.34 million in rebates as part of Competition Bureau agreement. For a copy of the consent agreement see: here. The Bureau alleged that Telus and Canada’s other major wireless providers facilitated charges to customers by third parties that were not adequately disclosed or agreed to, such as trivia questions and ringtones (so called “cramming” – i.e., billing for unwanted services).  This case has raised issues that include, among other things, what constitutes adequate disclosure for additional mobile services and liability as among a telecom and affiliates involved in marketing add-on services. This settlement is part of a wider ongoing case, which originally … read more »

Guest Post: U.S. FTC Updates FAQs on Endorsements and Testimonials in Social Media

Major enforcement agencies, notably in the United States (U.S. FTC) and Canada (Competition Bureau have been increasingly focusing on misleading online testimonials and disclaimers. In this respect, earlier this week Canada’s Competition Bureau launched a new advertising law publication with the first issue focusing on digital marketing issues (see: here). These issues have also been a focus of the U.S. FTC, which has recently updated its rules on online endorsements and testimonials. Brian Heidelberger of Winston & Strawn in Chicago has posted a very good “mini law lesson” video of the U.S. FTC’s new position (with many of the tips also good practices for Canadian brands and agencies. ____________________ FTC Updates Its FAQs on Endorsements and Testimonials in Social Media Brian Heidelberger (Chair, Advertising, Marketing and Privacy – Winston & Strawn LLP) The FTC has elaborated on its rules on endorsements, making plain that it’s not enough to just link … read more »