Canadian Government suspends implementation of Anti-Spam Provisions

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The Government of Canada announced earlier this month that the implementation of provisions granting a private right of action to individuals would not come into force this July 1st as originally scheduled.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) was an initiative of the previous Conservative government, and most of its provisions came into force in July 2014. The Act describes unwanted commercial messages as impairing the efficiency of electronic commerce; imposing costs on businesses and consumers; compromising privacy and security; and undermining the confidence of Canadians in on-line commerce. In addition to prohibiting unsolicited commercial messages, the CASL requires commercial messages to include information about the sender and a functioning unsubscribe mechanism.

Under the Act, people and businesses may be held liable for sending unsolicited commercial messages – “spam” – to Canadians. The CASL established fines of up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for corporations for the worst abuses. These provisions are enforced as “Administrative Monetary Penalties” by the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).

Sections 47-55 of the Act provide a private right of action to Canadians, allowing individuals to sue spammers directly through an Application to a competent Court. These provisions had been intended to come into effect on July 1st, 2017.

Following complaints from business and non-profit groups, however, the current Liberal government has suspended implementation of these provisions indefinitely, sending them to a Parliamentary Committee for review. According to the government’s release:

“Canadians deserve an effective law that protects them from spam and other electronic threats that lead to harassment, identity theft and fraud. At the same time, Canadian businesses, charities and non-profit groups should not have to bear the burden of unnecessary red tape and costs to comply with the legislation.

“The Government supports a balanced approach that protects the interests of consumers while eliminating any unintended consequences for organizations that have legitimate reasons for communicating electronically with Canadians.

“For that reason, the Government will ask a parliamentary committee to review the legislation, in keeping with the existing provisions of CASL.”

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