If you want to run a publicity contest or sweepstake in Quebec, you have to follow Quebec's provincial rules. Quebec has its own legislation regulating publicity contests and sweepstakes, and the rules are stricter than other provinces in Canada. As a result, publicity contests and sweepstakes in Canada have often excluded Quebec. In June, Quebec's national assembly adopted an exemption from registration for "international" publicity contests, which is likely to open up many publicity contests to Quebec residents.
This article describes Quebec's rules and what you have to do to run a publicity contest or sweepstake in Quebec. It also explains the new exemption to registration adopted by Quebec in June.
What is considered a publicity contest or sweepstake in Quebec?
A promotional contest or sweepstake is called a publicity contest in Quebec. The legal definition of a publicity contest in Quebec is broadly written to cover as many contests or sweepstakes as possible. The key parts to the definition are that a prize is awarded, and the object of the contest is the promotion of a commercial interest. The definition in Quebec's Act respecting lotteries, publicity contests and amusement machines (the "Act") is as follows:
"Publicity contest" means a contest, a lottery scheme, a game, a plan or an operation which results in the awarding of a prize, carried on for the object of promoting the commercial interests of the person for whom it is carried on."
Exemptions from Quebec's publicity contest rules
The new exemption for "international" publicity contests. In June of 2021, Quebec's legislature exempted "international" publicity contests from registering with Quebec's Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (the "Régie"). A contest is considered international when it is open to participants from outside of Canada. A contest is not considered "international" if:
- the participation form is only available in Quebec (for instance, the contest is held at a trade show or other event located in Quebec), or
- the "main part of the commercial interests of the person for whom" the contest is carried on is in Quebec. As a result of this exclusion, an international contest sponsored by an enterprise that is only located in Quebec or that has a majority of its operations in Quebec would need to be registered with the Régie, while a contest sponsored by an enterprise that does not have a majority of its operations in Quebec would not.
The exemption relaxes the rules for international publictiy contests offered to residents of Quebec. Prior to the exemption, publicity contests often excluded Quebec residents. It is important to note that contests offered to Quebec residents still need to be provided in French.
The new exemption for "international" publicity contests has created an advantage for companies that do not have a majority of their operations in Quebec. International companies are the focus of the exemption, but Canadian companies that don't have a majority of their operations in Quebec can take advantage of the new exemption by making their contests open to participants outside of Canada. As a result, we may see those companies swapping their "void in Quebec" language with something like "open to the residents of Greenland". You can find more information on this exemption from Gowling WLG here.
Small contests. Quebec's regulations do not apply to contests with awards worth less than Can$100. There are also exemptions from all but two of the sections of the Act for contests with awards worth less than Can$2,000.
Non-Quebec media. Quebec's regulations do not apply to a contest that is conducted only to promote the commercial interests of a regional periodical from outside Quebec or a radio or television station from outside Quebec, even if that periodical is distributed in Quebec or that station broadcasts into Quebec.
What are Quebec's rules for publicity contests?
Quebec's Act includes most of the requirements for a publicity contest in Quebec. The best way to understand what you need to do is to review the form required by the Régie. Among the requirements are:
- File the form with the Régie. The form must be filed 30 days before the contest is launched for contests with prizes in excess of Can$1,000, and five days before the contest for contests with prizes worth less than Can$1,000.
- A fee of 10% of the prize money if prizes are offered only to Quebec residents, and 3% of the prize money if prizes are offered to residents of Canada including Quebec. Since June 2021, "international" publicity contests don't have to pay a fee.
- Security for the contest must be posted if (1) the sponsor has no head office or business establishment in Quebec (note here the new exemption for "international" publicity contests applies to this security requirement), (2) has been convicted of an offence against the Act or the Rules of the Régie in the year preceding the date of the launching of the publicity contest; (3) the value of a prize offered to residents of Quebec is more than Can$5,000, or (4) the total value of prizes offered to residents of Quebec is Can$20,000 or more.
- Advertising for the contest and the contest rules must be submitted to the Régie at least ten days before the publicity contest is launched.
- Reporting to the Régie after the contest winner has been named.
- Retention of materials used in the contest.
- Quebec-specific rules that include the right for contestants to submit litigation regarding the contest to the Régie for a ruling.
- Contest rules must be provided in French.
How do the federal rules work in Quebec?
The Criminal Code and any other applicable laws also apply to publicity contests in Quebec. The Régie is very careful to state in its form that submission of materials to the Régie is not an approval, and that sponsors of publicity contests are still subject to the Criminal Code.
What about publicity contests offered online?
Quebec's rules apply to online contests as well. For enterprises that want to run a publicity contest in more than just Quebec, don't have a majority of their operations in Quebec and are conducting their contest virtually, opening up that contest to participants outside of Canada is an easy way to meet the requirements of Quebec's exemption from registration. Facebook and Instagram are popular forums for online contests and do need to comply with Quebec's regulations.
For frequently-asked questions on promotional contests in Canada, see our article Promotional Contests in Canada: FAQs.
For information on how to run a promotional contest on Facebook or Instagram, see our article Contests on Facebook or Instagram.
Finally, a note on how you can use the information in this article. This information is not to be considered legal advice and is not a substitute for advice from qualified legal counsel. Material aspects of this information may change at any time and without further notice.