Cross-Border Internet Practice Permitted

The Quebec Court of Appeal has limited the authority of a regulator to prevent the treatment of patients within the province by out-of-province practitioners. A Quebec patient obtained a prescription for corrective lenses from a Quebec practitioner and then ordered glasses and contact lenses from Coastal Contacts, a British Columbia internet-based company. The Quebec regulator then brought legal action against Coastal Contacts for illegally practising in Quebec. The Court held that there was no breach of the law as the “sale” occurred in British Columbia, not Quebec. Unlike some recent cases in other provinces, this Court took a narrow interpretation of the Quebec legislation, taking the approach that it preserved a monopoly and should therefore be given a restrictive and technical meaning. For example, because the legislation prohibited the sale of lenses, not their delivery, it did not capture the conduct of Coastal Contacts in Quebec. In addition, the Court held that the regulator has no jurisdiction over the public that purchases glasses/lenses. In other words, the act of placing the order, paying and receiving confirmation were all acts done, not by Coastal, but by a member of the public over whom the regulator had no jurisdiction. There will likely be a request for leave to appeal this decision to the Supreme Court of Canada. The case may be found at: Ordre des optometrists du Québec c. Coastal Contacts Inc., 2016 QCCA 837 (CanLII), http://canlii.ca/t/grqsf.

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