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News release

Companies involved in the mobile app industry must avoid practices that could harm consumers

Federal enforcement agencies remind the app industry of their obligations associated with Canada’s anti-spam legislation

GATINEAU, QC, November 26, 2020 – Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada

Today, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) and the Competition Bureau issued letters to 36 companies involved in the mobile applications industry in Canada advising that they review their practices and take preventive or corrective measures where necessary.

The federal agencies reminded mobile app companies of their obligations under Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), and those related to the promotion, installation and use of mobile apps under the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and the Competition Act. They also encouraged the companies to take action to help prevent activities that raise concerns, such as:

  • apps that make false or misleading claims to promote a product, a service or a business interest;
  • apps that collect or use personal information, such as electronic addresses, without consent;
  • apps that do not properly identify their functions (such as allowing information sharing with other computers or automatically downloading other programs on the user’s devices) in order to obtain informed consent from the user prior to installation;
  • apps designed to spam users’ friends and contacts.

These activities put Canadians at risk of fraud, identity theft and financial loss, among other things.

Companies involved in the mobile app industry are in a unique position to detect, prevent and stop practices that could harm consumers.

CASL took effect in 2014 to protect consumers and businesses from the misuse of digital technology, including spam and other electronic threats. It also aims to help businesses stay competitive in a global and digital marketplace.

Quick Facts

  • According to the CRTC, approximately 90% of Canadians subscribe to mobile services, and over 80% of Canadians aged 18+ own a smartphone.
  • Canadians must be vigilant when selecting, installing and using mobile apps.
  • Canadians should report spam and electronic threats at
  • The CRTC, OPC and Competition Bureau share the responsibility of enforcing CASL:
    • The CRTC investigates the sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages (spam), the altering of transmission data in electronic messages without consent, and the installation of a computer program on another person’s computer system without consent. 
    • The OPC focuses on two types of violations: the harvesting of electronic addresses; and the collection of personal information through illicit access to other people’s computer systems, primarily through means such as spyware.
    • The Competition Bureau investigates false or misleading claims and deceptive marketing practices, including false or misleading sender or subject matter information, electronic messages and locator information such as URLs and metadata.
  • This initiative started in early 2020, before the pandemic.


“Given their unique position in the industry, we expect Canadian app providers to do their part. All businesses must ensure their commercial activities do not jeopardize Canadians’ online security. This outreach effort will build greater awareness of CASL across the industry and help protect Canadians as they participate in the digital economy.”

  • Steven Harroun, Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer, CRTC

“We encourage all companies offering apps in Canada to ensure they are compliant with their CASL-related obligations. Organizations should ensure they do not harvest email or other electronic addresses, and they should exercise due diligence to ensure they do not use harvested information obtained from third parties.”

  • Brent Homan, Deputy Commissioner Compliance, OPC

“Businesses involved in the mobile app industry must be clear and disclose accurate information upfront to help consumers make informed decisions. Canadians expect and deserve truth from businesses in the digital economy, and the Bureau will take action if it becomes aware of businesses making false or misleading claims on their app or in electronic messages.”

  • Josephine A. L. Palumbo, Deputy Commissioner of Competition, Deceptive Marketing Practices Directorate, Competition Bureau

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Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission
For media enquiries, please contact:
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-997-9403

Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada
For media enquiries, please contact:
Media Relations
Telephone: 613-867-7829

Competition Bureau Canada
For media enquiries, please contact:
Media Relations
Telephone: 819-994-5945

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