An Alberta man who operated an online oil and gas job opportunities scam was found guilty by a jury of two offences under the Competition Act: making misleading representations contrary to section 52, and breaching a consent agreement contrary to section 66, the Competition Bureau announced recently.
Matthew Hovila’s website, www.oilcareer.com, promised job seekers employment in the oil and gas industry – for a membership fee. (The site is no longer online, but can be found on the WayBack Machine.)
Mr. Hovila signed the consent agreement with the Competition Bureau in 2006 to settle the Bureau’s investigation into the same job opportunities websites. The Bureau found that he misrepresented how widely job seekers’ resumes would be distributed, used testimonials from alleged past customers without establishing that the customers gave the testimonials, and misrepresented the ordinary selling price of the service. In the agreement Mr. Hovila and his company agreed to pay a $100,000 administrative monetary penalty and to stop making misleading representations.
Once registered, consent agreements are equivalent to orders of the Competition Tribunal. Section 66 of the Competition Act makes it an offence to breach an order of the Tribunal (and thus also, a consent agreement). In R. v. Hovila, the court found that section 66 creates a strict liability offence. This means that the Crown does not need to prove that the accused intended to breach the order, but an accused can raise the due diligence defence, which requires proof that the accused took all reasonable steps to avoid breaching the order.
Mr Hovila has not been sentenced. He faces up to 14 years in jail for the misleading advertising offence, and up to five years in jail for breaching the consent agreement, plus a fine in the discretion of the court.
UPDATE: Mr Hovila was sentenced to 30 months in jail. See article.