Canada’s long-promised anti-spam law will start taking effect on July 1, forcing organizations to make sure they have the consent of recipients when sending commercial electronic messages.
The legislation was passed by Parliament exactly three years ago and the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), which is the primary agency that will enforce the law, issued guidelines in October, 2012.
However today the governor-general’s office said most parts of the law will begin being enforced starting on Canada Day. Other parts take effect Jan. 15, 2015 and on July 1, 2017. There is still one more step: Government regulations — the detailed rules for obeying the law — will be published in the Canada Gazette on Dec. 18.
University of Ottawa law professor Michael Geist noted in a blog this morning that the regulations give businesses an exemption from the law if they are sending electronic messages to employees and to people working for another organization that the sender has a business relationship with.
Geist also noted the regulations reject an extensive lobby effort by some businesses to weaken the law.
The Canadian Network Operators Consortium (CNOC), which represents many of the country’s independent Internet service providers, said in a news release that it welcomes the news.
“Spam is more than a nuisance. It’s bad for our business, increases costs to consumers and makes Canadians vulnerable to identity theft and fraud,” CNOC Bill Sandiford said in the statement.
The anti-spam law, known in short as CASL, covers email, text messages, social media or other forms of telecommunications.
When it is fully in force, the law will prevent spamming, the redirection of online traffic by altering transmission data, installing computer programs without consent (starting July 15, 2015), making deceptive representations online, harvesting email addresses from computers and accessing computer systems to collect personal data without consent.
While the CRTC can issue administrative monetary penalties for violating CASL, the federal Competition Bureau can ask a court for administrative monetary penalties or criminal sanctions under the Competition Act. The federal Privacy Commissioner also has new powers to go after violators under changes to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
For organizations and individuals who believe they are victims the law also gives them a private right to sue for damages, although that doesn’t kick in until July 1, 2017..
“These legislative measures will protect consumers from spam and other threats that lead to harassment, identity theft and fraud,” Industry Minister James Moore said in a news release. “We are prohibiting unsolicited text messages, including cellphone spam, and giving Canadian businesses clarity so they can continue to compete in the online marketplace.”
The government, which passed the law because other countries including the U.S. have anti-spam legislation, estimates spam costs the Canadian economy more than $3 billion a year.