Language Legislation: Does Your Website Comply?

Understanding the Law

Since June 2022, new rules regarding the language of commerce in Quebec are in effect. Enterprises must now ensure that their websites are available in French, unless they fall under an exception to the law.

Enterprises not in compliance 

On February 9, 2023, the Office québécois de la langue française (Quebec bureau of the French language or OQLF) published a notice stating that a grocery store on Park Ave pleaded guilty to a violation of the Charter of the French Language. This was not the first time a website came to the attention of the OQLF, and it is likely not the last.  

In 2023, some ten enterprises received fines following complaints that their website contents were unavailable in French. According to the Charter of the French Language, every enterprise that operates in Quebec, and offers goods or services here, must respect the right of Quebec consumers to be served in French.  

This obligation extends to an enterprise’s catalogs, brochures, pamphlets, and any other document of a commercial nature, whether on their website or in print format. An enterprise can also offer a version of such documents in English — or any other language — as long as a French version of comparable quality is available.  

What are the consequences? 

When the l’OQLF is informed of a situation of non-compliance, following either a complaint or an inspection carried out by the OQLF itself, it can order an enterprise to take measures to comply with the law within a certain time limit.  

An enterprise that does not respect such an order can face a fine. The grocery store mentioned earlier was fined $1,500 for its non-compliant website. A different enterprise was fined $3,000 in December 2023, as it was its second offence.  

The amounts of the fines have increased for violations that occurred after June 2022. They are now between $3,000 and $30,000. The fine is doubled if the offence is repeated and tripled if repeated a third time.  

Important info for Non-Profit Organizations

For the purposes of Quebec language laws, non-profit organizations (NPOs) are considered “enterprises” and are therefore generally subject to the same rules mentioned above. However, some exceptions apply to the types of online and print publications many NPOs produce, notably publications of an educational, cultural, or humanitarian nature.

For a summary of these exceptions, see our infographic Quebec Language Laws for Non-French Publicity.