Netflix Refuses to Provide Confidential Data to Canadian Regulator

Netflix - Generic Image - 2010
Jin Lee/Bloomberg/Getty Images

The U.S. streamer is concerned sensitive business data will be made public

Netflix has forced a showdown with Canada's TV regulator by refusing to hand over confidential business data.

The CRTC on Friday ordered the U.S. video streaming giant to provide the business information by a Monday evening deadline, or risk seeing a new media exemption to operate Netflix Canada revoked. Netflix said it has withheld the business data on Canadian subscriber numbers and local production expenditures because the CRTC has not guaranteed it will remain confidential.

"While Netflix has responded to a number of the CRTC’s requests, we are not in a position to produce the confidential and competitively sensitive information ordered by the commission due to ongoing confidentiality concerns,” said Netflix spokeswoman Anne Marie Squeo in a statement issued on Monday.

"While the orders by the CRTC are not applicable to us under Canadian broadcasting law, we are always prepared to work constructively with the commission," she added. The CRTC was not available for comment Monday after Netflix's decision to ignore regulatory orders to hand out the business information.

Corie Wright, director of global policy for Netflix, on Friday told CRTC commissioners that no guarantee of confidentiality meant key business data could fall into the hands of competitors. "We were given to understand that in submitting information to the commission, while it could be given treatment, in fact it could not be guaranteed confidentially if somebody decided to request the commission make it public and apply a public interest test," Wright said during her public hearings appearance.

The CRTC and Netflix are now in a grey zone as the Canadian regulator believes it can order the U.S. company to comply with its business information request order due to the new media exemption. But Netflix sees itself operating beyond the regulator's jurisdiction under the federal Broadcasting Act.

The CRTC has also painted itself into a corner as the federal government in Ottawa is against regulating Netflix and other popular U.S. video portals operating in Canada. "The CRTC has in the past declined to regulate such services — a position that our government continues to firmly support," said federal heritage minister Shelly Glover in a statement as the CRTC hearings on Canadian TV got underway two weeks ago.

"We will not allow any moves to impose new regulations and taxes on Internet video," Glover added.