There are various legal regimes that must be considered when running a promotional contest in Canada. In addition to Canadian privacy legislation and CASL, some of the other key considerations are set out below.

Competition Act

The Competition Act prohibits promotional contests when:

  • adequate and fair disclosure is not made of the number and approximate value of the prizes, of the area or areas to which they relate and of any fact within the knowledge of the person offering the promotional contest that affects materially the chances of winning;
  • distribution of the prizes is unduly delayed; and
  • selection of participants or distribution of prizes is not made on the basis of skill or on a random basis in any area to which prizes have been allocated.

For additional guidance on this requirement, see the Competition Bureau’s Promotional Contest Enforcement Guidance.

Criminal Code of Canada

In general, the Criminal Code prohibits certain lotteries and games of chance. Under the Criminal Code, everyone is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years who disposes of any goods, wares or merchandise by any game of chance or any game of mixed chance and skill in which the contestant or competitor pays money or other valuable consideration. As such, any conduct of a contest whereby the winners are determined solely by chance or mixed chance and skill is prohibited. For this reason, most contests implement a skill-testing question prior to awarding a potential winner a prize. Any promotion whereby an entrant must purchase a product or service as the sole means to enter a contest of chance or of mixed chance and skill is prohibited. This is often avoided by an alternative no-purchase necessary contest entry method.

Special Considerations in Quebec

Quebec is the only province that has a law that applies specifically to contests. The Rules Respecting Publicity Contests are administered by the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux. When a contest is run in Quebec, it must meet certain requirements, including:

  • all materials for Quebec residents must be in French;
  • notice of the contest, and the applicable fees based on the value of the prizes, a copy of the contest rules, and the text of any advertisement used in the contest must be filed in advance of the contest with the Régie;
  • the contest rules must contain certain prescribed information; and
  • in certain cases, a security bond may be required.