The Canadian Competition Bureau announced yesterday that it had obtained a criminal conviction against an Ontario man yesterday for deceptive telemarketing. The man and his company called small and medium businesses over the past decade and convinced them that they had already ordered a listing in the company’s business directory which needed to be updated, when, in fact, no such order had ever been placed. This deception caused the companies to, then, put listings in the directory.
This case involved telemarketing which is covered by Section 52.1 of the Competition Act. While many of you will not be engaged in telemarketing activities, it is important to know that there is a similar provision for non-telemarketing activities. Thus, Section 52 of the Act makes it an offence to “knowingly or recklessly” make representations to the public that are materially wrong in order to make a sale or secure a contract. It is also important to note that the Competition Bureau does not have to prove that the customer or potential customer was actually misled. However, the key here is that you either knew that there was a misrepresentation or that you were reckless (ie. took no steps to check its accuracy).
As such, care should be taken in your promotional materials for your business. Misrepresentations could lead not only to lawsuits but in a serious enough case could warrant the involvement of the Competition Bureau with possible criminal law implications.