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Why is Quebec excluded from contests?

Have you ever read the fine print of contests and found that Quebec is excluded? There's a reason for it.
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Alexandra Grigorescu, January 27, 2014 12:03:16 PM

Dear reader,

If you’ve ever read the fine print of a contest, you might’ve noticed a disclaimer that reads: “Void in Quebec.” In fact, late last year a National Geographic contest raised eyebrows by excluding Quebec alongside countries such as Iran, North Korea, Syria and Sudan. This might seem like strange company for the Canadian province, but many lottery and sweepstakes providers (as well as coupons) routinely avoid it.

This is because Quebec has stringent rules that have been in place since 1978 about how sweepstakes are run.

The Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux, a board appointed by the Quebec government to deal with alcohol, gambling, and publicity contests in the province, oversees all commercial contests that are open to the public. Depending on the total value of the prize, contest providers may have to deal with a laundry list of requirements before proceeding with the contest.

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Contest providers may need to file a publicity contest note with the Regie at least 30 days before the contest is meant to start. Promotional material can’t mislead contest entrants, and has to lay out the number, description, range and value of the prizes. It must also include a note that any litigation arising out of the contest must go through the Regie.

Then, there’s the money. Contest providers hesitate because they may have to pay fees to the Regie: 10% of the total value of prizes awarded to Quebec residents only, 3% of the total value of prizes awarded for national contests that include Quebec residents, and 0.5% of the total value of prizes offered to any other group of contestants (such as international contests).

And the rules still go on.

You might, by now, be getting a sense of why contest providers frequently exclude Quebec from their pool of entrants, despite the fact that the Regie only hopes to protect residents from potential scams. However, some have argued that there’s really no need for additional rules in Quebec given that the Competition Act and Criminal Code of Canada already control how contests are run and provide ample consequences for seedy contest providers. The Competition Bureau, headed by the Commissioner of Competition (a fine alliterative job title if there ever was one), enforces the Competition Act and deters all manner of “deceptive business practices.”

Interestingly, considering that the National Geographic contest wasn’t doling out cash prizes, it wouldn’t have been subject to the same rules. The province’s sweepstakes guidelines have by now become notorious enough that, as Joyce Tremblay, a spokesperson for the Regie lamented to the Canadian Press, “”Sadly, [National Geographic] decided to exclude Quebec without checking the facts because they were afraid they’d have to pay.”

Quebec’s not-so-subtle differences from the rest of Canada extend even into their legal system. It’s the only Canadian province to boast a bijuridical legal system, which means its criminal and public law cases are handled under the common law of Canada, but many other matters are settled by Quebec’s own civil code (civil law relies heavily on written laws and Codes rather than judicial decisions).

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Quebec can technically thank Louis XIV, who decreed that a code of civil law known as the Custom of Paris would serve as their legal system in 1664. After the end of the Seven Years’ War, France handed Quebec over to the British government, which enacted the Royal Proclamation of 1763, making Quebec subject to English courts and laws for most matters. This was a period of some confusion for residents of Quebec—you’d forgive them for feeling somewhat like a ping-pong ball, volleyed back and forth. It didn’t end there, though—the British Parliament passed the Quebec Act in 1774, which restored the use of French civil law for disputes relating to private matters.

This all means that Quebec sets itself apart from the rest of Canada in other ways, both large and small. Early last year, the Supreme Court of Canada ruled that unmarried couples living together in Quebec (who then split up) can’t claim alimony. This makes it the only province to not recognize “de facto” marriages, despite the fact that 31.5% of Quebec couples report being in this kind of relationship (the average for the rest of the country is a comparatively paltry 12.1%). You can chalk this up to what Quebec Justice Minister Bertrand St-Arnaud described to the CBC as “the principle of freedom of choice which has always governed life in Quebec.”

So, Quebec does things differently from the rest of Canada, and unfortunately, this often means that its residents get the bum end of the deal when it comes to a chance at winning that new fridge or trip abroad. However, Quebec has its own lottery, casinos, and sports betting. Also, several websites track contests that are open to Quebec. At the end of the day, Quebec’s residents can at least rest easy knowing that the contests they are able to enter have been through the proverbial wringer – and then some.

Each week, You Ask sends out its writers to tackle your hardest news-related questions. Have one for us? You can submit it through the sidebar on the right. If your inquiry is chosen, we’ll let you know when the answer is posted!

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