Canada has long been thought of as a sort of “haven for spammers.” Dreadfully behind other developed nations like the United States and the United Kingdom, Canada hasn’t had any real specific anti-spam laws on the books. Industry Minister Tony Clement is hoping that two new bills will change all of that.
For the purposes of this article, I’ll be taking a look at the first of these two bills.
Bill C-28, also called the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act, is basically just a renamed version of Bill C-27, also called the Electronic Commerce Protection Act. Bill C-27, however, faded away from view after Harper’s government prorogued.
Clement estimated that spammers wind up costing Canadians billions a year, noting that even his own wife had been the victim of a scam in the internet. Last year, Lynne Clement was duped into filling out an online questionnaire and wound up being a victim of internet identity theft.
The plan is for Bill C-28 to be on the books by year’s end.
Among the key provisions in Bill C-28 is a new measure for people who send commercial emails and cell phone spam through a text message without consent of the recipient. This specific provision will impact both legitimate businesses sending commercial messages, perhaps for advertising purposes, and those sending messages and spam for more illicit purposes.
“I’m not saying to Canadians that once this bill passes all spam will cease. That’s impossible, unfortunately. I wish it were the case, but it cannot be done. But there will be a significant diminution,” said Clement.
The bill features what’s being called a “multi-faceted” approach to enforcement. Industry Canada will be a national coordinator for a trio of groups designed that will enforce Bill C-28, including the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunication Commission, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. These groups will also share information amongst themselves.
The Bill also creates a spam reporting centre and enables the CRTC to impose fines of up to $1 million per violation for individuals and $10 million per violation for businesses. The Competition Act enables the Competition Bureau to also seek damages, while the Privacy Commissioner would serve as the ultimate enforcer of the legislation.
Bill C-28 is a great start on the path to taking spam seriously in Canada. That we’ve lacked legislation to critically tackle this issue thus far is embarrassing, but it’s good to see Clement and Co. taking these issues to heart for a change.