Vancouver Province: Canada’s anti-spam law to put the squeeze on B.C. businesses electronic promotion

Jun 25, 2014
Leyland Pitt

Beedie School of Business professor Leyland Pitt.

The following is an excerpt from the full article published in the Vancouver Province on June 20, 2014, and features commentary from Beedie School of Business professor Leyland Pitt.

It’s about to get a whole lot more difficult for businesses to communicate electronically with current and prospective clients when Canada’s anti-spam legislation comes into effect at the beginning of next month.

Starting July 1, businesses will be required to obtain direct consent before they fire off “commercial electronic messages” (CEMs) to clients or prospective customers or face fines that could reach as high as $10 million.

In addition to promotional emails, CEMs are defined under the legislation as messages sent to social networking accounts, i.e. Facebook, and text messages sent to a cellphone.

The legislation, which has been described by some as the strictest anti-spam policies in the world, also covers the installation of computer programs without expressed consent, the alteration of transmission data, and false and misleading electronic representations, according to the Government of Canada’s website.

While intended to thwart the more dangerous forms of unsolicited electronic messages that could, for example, lead to the installation of computer viruses, some critics have complained that the legislation will take away a valuable marketing tool for businesses, especially smaller ones.

Within the past several weeks, various business groups and leaders have expressed concern with the scope of the legislation. Some have also voiced concern that many businesses aren’t ready for the changes and still don’t fully understand the implications.

“It renders Canadian business uncompetitive,” said John Winter, president and CEO of the B.C. Chamber of Commerce. “They are taking away a valuable marketing tool and rendering smaller businesses small and that is crazy. It is a piece of crap as far as legislation goes.”

Others, however, including professor Leyland Pitt of Simon Fraser University’s Beedie School of Business, interpret the legislation in a more positive light. But while Pitt says he agrees with the legislation in principle, he doubts it will stop all spam email from landing in your inbox.

“I’m sure most people who live in Canada would say the real problem spam is not from Canadian companies,” he said. “The real spam doesn’t come from Canada, a lot of it comes from the U.S., India, Russia, China and there is nothing that this legislation can do to those people. It is a shame, but that is the reality of it.”

Pitt also wondered if enforcement will be an issue. And he referenced the “do not call” legislation from several years ago — Bill C-37, gave Canadians the right to register their telephones numbers on a national list exempting them from telemarketing calls — which some have described as ineffective due to the high enforcement costs and quantity of groups who are exempt.

“It certainly solved a lot of problems for people because there were Canadian calls — firms calling you that you didn’t want to call you — but we still get lots of those calls because it doesn’t apply to firms in the U.S.,” he said. “They [still call] because the legislation doesn’t stop them.”

To read the article in full, visit the Vancouver Province website.

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