60% of Canadian and US Businesses Unaware of Canadian Spam Law


A new study  has revealed that 60% of U.S. and Canadian businesses are
completely unaware of the new Canadian anti-spam legislation soon to go into effect, and that could cost them dearly.

The law, known as Bill C-28, was passed in December 2010, but there has been a lot of foot dragging since then by the legislature and a fair amount of outcry from businesses. It’s likely to finally go into affect as early as this fall. Companies all over the world need to be aware of the law and what they need to do to be in compliance, because it applies to any company that sends commercial email to Canada, even if they are located elsewhere. The penalties for violations are stiff-fines of up to $10 million per offense, and the right for individuals to seek damages. The law allows individuals the right to demand $200 per spam message, and for class action suits to be filed.

‘“Commercial electronic messages” encompass communications that have any commercial goal—including discount offers, promotions, and newsletters. In other words, says Fasken Martineau associate CharlesLupien, a “simple, run-of-the-mill e-mail” that a company wouldn’t think of as malicious spam will be viewed as illegal under this law, sans prior consent.

Some examples of what would be covered under Bill C-28: A law firm that sends out a mass mailing about a free conference it’s hosting. Or a beverage company’s e-news about its latest juice, sent to a recipient list it obtained from an industry association. Or a company that contacts a client list that dates back five years, announcing, ‘We’re new and improved and we want you back as a customer.’’

Companies are advised to go through their mailing lists and do some housekeeping. The law mandates that companies prove they had prior consent from everyone on their mailing lists (and the law prohibits companies from sending an email asking for consent). The exception is if they can prove they had a business relationship with the individual within the two years prior to sending the messages. If they can, they don’t need to prove they had prior consent.

The law also applies to text messages and Facebook messages as well. As you can see, this law is a complex and far reaching one, so if your company hasn’t made itself familiar and/or compliant yet, you need to do so ASAP.

Written by Sue Walsh


  1. Miles Upham · May 23, 2012

    The fact that 60% had no idea about this is shocking, though I’m inclined to think that the bulk of that number is coming from the United States. This seems like one of those laws that won’t be overly used but does empower people to file suit if they so desire. Still, I don’t see the courts being clogged up every time someone sends out an email, and the biggest offenders will probably be anonymous or elusive enough that they will not be taken to court for their spamming offenses.

  2. Ethel Pines · May 29, 2012

    Ignorance of the law excuses no one. But authorities have the obligation to orient the public of this, as well, rather than start on some rouge campaign and end up convicting a large majority of legitimate businesses whose only fault is in not knowing what’s going on.

    Only after an extensive information dissemination campaign can the government has the moral authority to strictly implement the law. At least, they know that they have done the best of their ability to let the public know.

    Warn first before prosecuting. Bark first before biting. Because if you make noise first, biting might not be necessary anymore.

  3. Jessica Craig · May 30, 2012

    I guess it will take only one very public trial for very much $$$ to make the public aware. On the other hand, having in mind the global nature of the Internet, you can never be sure which country the respondents reside in. I might be sending an email to somebody in US or Europe and oh, surprise, he has moved to Canada and now I must pay. I don’t think this law will work.

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