*Disclaimer: This is simply a report on the new Bill 96 and is not considered legal advice or recommendations on behalf of MotionPoint.*
What is Quebec’s Bill 96?
In May of 2022, Quebec’s government passed a new bill, officially titled An Act respecting French, the official and common language of Quebec. Known also as Bill 96, its purpose was to amend the original Charter of the French Language (Bill 101), which was passed in 1977.
The goal of Bill 96 is to protect French as the official language of the province. While Bill 101 placed emphasis on centering the French language at the heart of business, education, and commerce operations in Quebec, Bill 96 expands those provisions, not only identifying additional areas for compliance, but also levying much stricter penalties.
Bill 96 opens the door for individual citizens to file lawsuits against organizations that infringe on their right to service in French. It also extends jurisdiction to any company with twenty-five or more employees, as well as any company soliciting business in Quebec, regardless of the location of their primary headquarters.
When Does Bill 96 Take Effect?
Though sections of the bill immediately became enforceable upon its assent on June 1, 2022, others will gradually become active. For example, businesses that employ 25-29 people (and were previously not mandated to comply under Bill 101) have until June 1, 2025 to register with the Office Quebecois De La Langue Francaise.
How Does Bill 96 Impact Business?
Bill 96 impacts a wide range of industries like education, commerce, and enterprise. As a result of its broad scope, businesses that previously did not fall under the jurisdiction of Bill 101 may now need to comply with Bill 96. Individual businesses should contact their legal team or a legal consultant for specifics related to their responsibilities. Below are some important sections to pay attention to:
1. Customer Service (Section 41, Bill 96)
“An enterprise that offers goods or services to consumers must respect their right to be informed and served in French. An enterprise that offers goods or services to a public other than consumers must inform and serve it in French.” (Amendment to Charter Section 50.2, page 32, Bill 96)
In short, for customers located in Quebec, the full experience with a company must be offered in French. This means that businesses that fall under the provisions of Bill 96 must translate all customer service activities, including all online and offline content. Potential blind spots for companies in their online content include embedded URLs, internally linked webpages, linked company-based social media profiles and pages, and pop-up windows that include cookie consent, payment screens, and terms of service. Outside of individual web pages, businesses should also ensure that call centers offer the option for support in French for any hours listed on materials shared with customers in Quebec. Businesses concerned about their French coverage need to take immediate and quick action. Luckily, a translation partner can make this process easier. With MotionPoint, you can deploy a translated website in as little as 45 days!
2. Trademarks (Sections 43 and 48 of Bill 96)
“…a registered trademark within the meaning of the Trademarks Act (Revised Statutes of Canada, 1985, chapter T-13) may be drawn up, even partially, only in a language other than French where no corresponding French version appears in the register kept according to that Act.” (Amendment to Charter Section 51.1, Pages 32-33, Bill 96)
Under Bill 101, there was no requirement that everything be translated as long as there was a “sufficient presence” of French in materials. In practice, this often meant that companies translated the product description and any generic terms used in public materials. Bill 96 strictly limits non-translated material to only those trademarks registered under the federal Trademarks Act that have no French version also registered.
By opting for a concierge-level translation partner like MotionPoint, you can be sure all aspects of your website or other web content will be expertly translated. With our white-glove service, you don’t need to worry about complying with new laws and regulations because we do it for you.
3. Public Signs, Packaging, and Labeling
“…on public signs and posters visible from outside premises, French must be markedly predominant where such a trademark appears in a language other than French.” (Amendment to Charter Section 58.1, Page 35, Bill 96 )
“…if a generic term or a description of the product is included in the trademark, it must appear in French on the product or on a medium permanently attached to the product.” (Amendment to Charter Section 51.1, Page 33, Bill 96)
In addition to the requirements related to translations of trademarks, French must appear as the primary and predominant language on all signage, packaging, and labels. This includes warranty messaging, directions for use, ingredient lists, and any other information that may appear on these materials in public view. Importantly, the French version must be provided on terms no less favorable than those in which the material is provided in another language. To avoid subjectivity related to the term “no less favorable”, business should consider providing the French version in the same medium and location that text appears in other languages.
For example, if printed warranty materials inside the packaging appear in another language, they should also be printed in French, with the French version appearing more prominently. While the rule related to French appearing predominantly went into effect on June 1, 2022, companies still have until June 1, 2025 to change signage, packaging, and labels that may be affected by the revisions to trademark rules noted in the section above.
What if You Fail to Comply with Bill 96?
Bill 96 has heightened the penalties of non-compliance to include both daily fines from regulatory agencies, as well as the possibility of individual or class-action lawsuits against businesses that fail to provide consumers and employees experiences in French. The regulatory fines follow an increasing penalty structure:
- First Offense: $3000-$30,000 (corporations) and $1,400-$14,000 (directors and officers)
- Second Offense: $6000-$60,000 (corporations) and $2,800-$28,000 (directors and officers)
- Subsequent Offenses: $9000-$90,000 (corporations) and $4,200-$42,000 (directors and officers)
Companies will face spot audits and may also face investigation based on complaints filed.
Be Prepared with Professional Translation and Localization
With the expansion of regulations and steep penalties for enforcement, companies need to act quickly to ensure they remain compliant. Businesses in Quebec or businesses that employ Quebec residents should seriously consider professional translation and website localization services.
When your company decides to partner for translation, you must choose a provider that views translation beyond mere words on a screen. Localization requires a translation process that fully replicates the content and tone of the original copy, thus creating a one-to-one experience in any language; situations like these set a language service partner like MotionPoint above other translation providers.
Our team provides companies with high-quality translations using Adaptive Translation™, a mix of translation memory, algorithmic translation, and artificial intelligence, plus an optional human layer to create coherent and cohesive content that aligns with the original intent and voice.
Make sure your company complies with Quebec’s language laws with some help from a concierge-level translation partner like MotionPoint.
*Reminder: None of the above should be considered legal advice on behalf of MotionPoint. Please consult your legal team or counsel for more information on whether Bill 96 applies to you.*Last updated on February 22, 2023