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Federal government suspends lawsuit provision in anti-spam legislation

By The IJ Staff | June 08 2017 01:30PM

Photo: Freepik

The Government of Canada announced June 7 that it will be suspending provisions of Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) that would have allowed lawsuits to be filed against individuals and organizations for alleged violations of the legislation.

The provisions, known as private right of action (PRA), were supposed to come into effect July 1, 2017, but are now suspended due to concerns raised by businesses, charities, and not-for-profit groups.

Listened to concerns raised by stakeholders

"Canadians deserve to be protected from spam and other electronic threats so that they can have confidence in digital technology. At the same time, businesses, charities and other non-profit groups should have reasonable ways to communicate electronically with Canadians,” says Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science, and Economic Development.

The Government says it aims to find a balance between protecting Canadians from harassment, identity theft, and fraud, without imposing unnecessary red tape on businesses, charities, and not-for-profit groups. A parliamentary committee will be asked to review the legislation.

Decision commended by stakeholders

The news of the suspension was welcomed by The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) which says the provision would have had harmful consequences on small business.

"We asked, and government listened," stated Dan Kelly, president of the CFIB in a statement issued June 7. "We are very grateful to Minister Bains for recognizing the impact this provision could have had on limiting innovation and customer relationships for small businesses across Canada, and for not putting Canadian businesses at a competitive disadvantage. This measure will help address some of the red tape headaches the legislation has presented to Canadian small firms."

A competitive disadvantage

The Canadian Marketing Association (CMA) also welcomed the news. "CMA believes that the PRA is unnecessary given that Canadian consumers are already well-protected from spam by the three regulators tasked with enforcing CASL," stated Wally Hill, CMA's VP of Government & Consumer Affairs. "The Government has made the right decision by indefinitely suspending the PRA provision which would have created a competitive disadvantage for Canadian businesses engaged in digital marketing and eCommerce."

Businesses must comply with the law

The CFIB reminded businesses that despite the suspension of this provision, they still need to ensure that they are complying with anti-spam rules. It has partnered with Cyberimpact, a Canadian firm which specializes in e-marketing, to provide resources to deal with the legislation.

"Very few small businesses understand the law or what it means for them. They are still subject to huge fines for simply communicating with their customers,” says Jean-Francis Lalonde, president of Cyberimpact."

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