Anti-spam legislation to take effect July 1

Government introduces legislation but it is difficult to regulate

On July 1, Canada’s federal anti-spam legislation (aka CASL) comes into effect. You may have seen the call through the Sooke Region Chamber of Commerce’s “Chamber News” appearing right here in the Mirror, reminding their members to get consent before sending ads, promotions, offers, etc through email.

So what exactly does this anti-spam legislation mean to the average email user?

Good question. So we at the Sooke News Mirror decided to scratch the surface.

According to the legislation’s Fast Facts page (http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/h_00039.html), effective this Canada Day, people can no longer send electronic messages, alter data in a forwarded electronic content, or install computer programs without the consent of the recipient. Electronic messages can include e-mail, text or social networking message. There cannot be false or misleading information in the promotion of products or services. And the collection of personal information will also requires consent.

Consent can be “expressed” or “implied.” Expressed means something like checking a check box saying you agree to the terms (like those agreement check boxes the majority of users don’t read); implied consent means that there is an existing relationships, business or otherwise, between the recipient and the sender.

Three government agencies will look after enforcing the law: Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC, who will administer penalties); Competition Bureau (to seek administrative monetary penalties or criminal sanctions under the Competition Act); and, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (to exercise new powers under an amended Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act.)

The penalties that can be administered but the three enforcement agencies are quite steep, up to $1 million per violation for individuals and up to $10 million per violation for organizations. And each unsolicited piece of communication constitutes a separate violation.

This sounds to good to be true.

But does this mean if you receive an offer for $30 million from some IMF executive in Nigeria, you can set something in motion that will result in a steep fine to the sender?

Well, sorta. But it’s not as simple as dashing of an unsolicited email to the CRTC.

Near the bottom of the Fast Facts, there’s a line that reads: “The law will also allow individuals and organizations who are affected by an act or omission that is in contravention of the law to bring a private right of action in court against individuals and organizations whom they allege have violated the law.”

So, if you, Good Citizen of Sooke, have been affected by an act or omission that contravenes with this new law, you have the private right of action in court. Yep. And duly noted, the Fast Facts webpage encourages all to get legal advice before filing a law suit.

According to LegalHelp.ca, “You can normally find a very competent lawyer for between $200 to $300 per hour.”

A Canadian Press article by Michael Oliveira (“Anti-spam law will be difficult to police, CRTC says”) notes the legislation is riddled with complexities. First, Oliveira points out, companies have three years to get consent. Second, the rules have some legal experts struggling to interpret them. And third, enforcement issues will be complicated by a steady increasing shortage of staff.

While some of the more responsible companies are rushing to comply by sending their contacts an active opt-in mechanism, this legislation is slow.

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