Companies holding international publicity contests (which includes promotional contests and sweepstakes) have made a habit of limiting the eligibility of Quebec residents. This approach was attributable to the administrative formalities and fees imposed by the Quebec government. To promote the inclusion of Quebec residents in international publicity contests,1 the Quebec government passed an amendment to the Act respecting lotteries, publicity contests and amusement machines (the “Act”). The amendment, which came into force on June 2, 2021, exempts international publicity contests from the regime imposed by the Act, including the formalities and fees required by the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (the “RACJ”).
Specifically, section 63 of the Act now states that the chapter relating to publicity contests does not apply to those contests, games and other activities that result in the awarding of a prize to promote commercial interests (each a “publicity contests”) and that are intended to offer prizes to a group of participants that includes both participants outside Canada and participants in Quebec—in other words, international publicity contests.
It is important to note that a publicity contest will not be considered “international” if the contest entry form can only be obtained in Quebec (for example, at an event held in Quebec) or if the commercial interests of the contest organizer are primarily in Quebec, even if the publicity contest is advertised outside Quebec.
As a reminder, prior to the adoption of this amendment, any business wishing to hold a publicity contest involving Quebec residents had to comply with certain administrative formalities required by the RACJ, including the following:
- File the prescribed form with the RACJ at least five (5) days before the contest if the total value of the prizes offered is less than $1,000, or at least 30 days before the contest in all other cases.
- Fees and security. Depending on the total value of the prizes, there are fees payable to the RACJ. In some cases, a letter of guarantee from a financial institution may also be required to secure the prizes.
- Rules and advertising. Provide the contest rules within ten (10) days before they are publicized to the public. If the total value of the prizes exceeds $2,000, the text of any advertisements used must also be provided.
- After the contest. When the total value of the prizes exceeds $2,000, a report must be submitted to the RACJ within 60 days of the contest winners being named.
These requirements no longer apply to international contests, but they continue to apply to other contests offered to residents of Quebec.
For more information on the requirements, please see the following article: Organizing Publicity Contests in Quebec. Please note that this article has not been updated since its initial publication.
Other applicable laws
Although the Act has been amended, a business running a publicity contest in which Quebec residents may participate must still comply with the applicable laws governing contests in Canada and certain other laws of general application in Quebec. The following is an overview of some of the laws that may be applicable:
- The Competition Act requires, among other things, adequate disclosure of the number and approximate value of the prizes, of the areas to which they relate, and of any known facts that materially affect the chances of winning. The Competition Act also prohibits undue delays in the distribution of prizes. In addition, when prizes have been allocated to a specific area, winners must be selected and the prizes distributed in that area.
- The Criminal Code prohibits the awarding of prizes based solely on chance or when the contestant is required to pay money or other valuable consideration in order to participate.
- The Charter of the French Language contains certain language requirements for commercial advertising. Since publicity contests can be considered commercial advertising, a specific analysis of the relevant provisions of the Charter of the French Language is required.
- The many requirements of the Consumer Protection Act may also apply when the publicity contest is open to Quebec residents and the target audience consists in whole or in part of consumers. It should be noted that this act defines a consumer as a natural person, other than a merchant who obtains goods or services for the purpose of his business.
- Privacy laws may apply when a person collects and stores personal information about contest participants.
Although the Act has been amended to make it easier for Quebec residents to enter certain publicity contests, several legislative provisions remain applicable. In this context, businesses should draft effective rules governing their publicity contests and ensure that their practices comply with local laws, as with any other type of advertising and contract.
The author would like to thank Zachary Vaillancourt, Law Student, for his valuable contributions to the drafting of this article.
1 Allégements législatifs : concours publicitaires internationaux et sanctions administratives pécuniaires en matière d’alcool — Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (RACJ) (gouv.qc.ca) [Our translation: “Legislative relief: international promotional contests and alcohol-related administrative monetary penalties” ] (article in French only)