What does Cisco have against Quebec?

Answer: In plain English, it seems as though the network equipment giant doesn't like being strong-armed by Canada's French-speaking province. And I can't say that I blame them ... in either language.

Perhaps you've read of Cisco's I-Prize contest. In a nutshell, the best idea for a company wins a bunch of money and the entrepreneur gets taken under a big-time corporate wing. No surprise to see more than 1,100 entries, which Cisco has whittled down to a final dozen.

What was surprising was to read the eligibility requirements and see this classic example of the old grade-school quiz: "Which one is not like the others?" For not eligible to participate in Cisco's contest were residents of Cuba, Iran, Syria, North Korea, Myanmar, Sudan ... and Quebec?

Huh? The first six are relatively easy to understand: Cuba, embargo; Iran, verge of war; Syria, funds Hezbollah; North Korea, axis of evil; Myanmar, military junta; Sudan, genocide.

But Quebec? Yes, the separatist movement has seen moments of violence, but bloody Iraq is not on that prohibited list. And, neither is Afghanistan, so I'm presuming Osama bin Laden was eligible for I-Prize even if Quebec Premier Jean Charest was not.

My initial inquiry to Cisco stumped the company's public relations department, but then I received this statement:

Hi Paul,

So I did a little research on this for you, and apparently Quebec has one of the most stringent set of rules and regulations for sweepstakes and other contests set out by the Quebec government. Local law requires "sponsors" to adhere to some or all of the following:

* Register the sweepstakes rules and all advertisements used to promote the contest with the Quebec government at least 30 days ahead of the sweepstake's launch.

* Pay a fee of 10% of the sweepstake's value.

* Agree to allow the government of Quebec to mediate any lawsuits arising from the contest.

* Allow the Quebec government to determine if the sweepstake may be changed or canceled once it has started.

* File a written report after the contest has concluded, attesting that the prizes have been delivered or attempted to be delivered.

Because of this, many companies just void Quebec from participating in sweepstakes and contests.

A 10% fee? Tony Soprano might approve, but I cannot imagine that too many contest sponsors opt to pay.

Last week I sent an inquiry to the government of Quebec seeking its side of the story, but have yet to receive a reply.

Maybe they're waiting for my check.

(Update: Google Code Jam is another example of Quebec residents being on the outs.)

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