Canada’s Anti-Spam Law Takes Effect

By @ibtimesau on
Laptop users at the Google I/O developers conference
Attendees using their laptops at the Google I/O developers conference in San Francisco June 26, 2014. REUTERS/Elijah Nouvelage

Institutions or individuals fond of sending spam mail to Canadian electronic mailboxes should ought to think twice sending those missives or otherwise risk getting sued in court for millions of dollars. Canada's new anti-spam law (CASL) already took effect on Tuesday.

Essentially, the CASL law bars businesses and organisations from sending commercial electronic messages, including texts, emails and social media messages, without first seeking and receiving the recipient's approval.

Companies violating the new legislation can be fined by as much as $10 million for sending unsolicited emails. 

"The purpose of the act is really to give people faith back into the online marketplace," Colin Rogers, Deloitte's senior privacy manager, told CTV News.

The country's telecom regulator, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, will administer the new law.

"It's going to establish some significant enforcement rights for the CRTC to help combat spam," Peter Murphy, a privacy and technology lawyer at Gowlings in Toronto, told CBC News. "To the extent this law is targeting major spammers, it should have a significant effect at reducing that kind of spam. Those kind of major spammers will likely look to other places to carry on their activities."

Manon Bombardier, the CRTC's chief compliance and enforcement officer, admitted the agency won't be immediately be able to eliminate all spam.

"We want to make the online environment more secure for Canadians by addressing the more severe cases," she told Financial Post. "The enforcement approach that the CRTC is taking is not meant to punish."

Businesses, besides receiving the recipient's appropriate consent, must ensure their electronic messages clearly identify the sender. Their messages must also include an unsubscribe option.

Businesses are given a three-year "transition period" wherein they will be allowed to continue sending commercial messages but only if they can prove they've had a business relationship with the recipients, known in law as implied consent, in the past two years.

Tech expert Carmi Levy said the law is laudable, but most definitely hard to implement. "There's absolutely no way for any government, no matter how tough the law is, to legislate an end to spam," Levy told CTV News. "The law simply can't stop this global scourge."

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