Some of the suggested changes make sense and have garnered near-universal support. The proposed regulations adopted a restrictive approach to obtaining consent, requiring that it be “in writing.” Many submissions from business and consumer groups argue this is unnecessary since electronic or verbal consents should be equally valid.
Several business groups have also noted that the form requirements on commercial electronic messages require a website address, yet many businesses are still not online. Moreover, the telecom industry points to short code messaging that already require consent and do not fit neatly into the anti-spam form requirements.
Yet for every legitimate regulatory concern, there seems to be a group that wants to re-open the carefully crafted legislative compromise. For example, Advocis, the Financial Advisors Association of Canada, emphasizes the value of financial literacy in an effort to argue that rules on referrals and consent should contain specific exceptions for financial advisors.
The Entertainment Software Association of Canada calls for an astonishing seven new exceptions, including watering down consent requirements for the installation of computer programs. This particular issue was the subject of extensive debate during committee hearings with the ESAC position previously rejected by the government and opposition MPs.
Other submissions call on the government to eliminate consent requirements altogether for small and startup businesses, suggesting that businesses be permitted to send thousands of messages each year without any need for prior consent.
The relentless campaign against the legislation has proven effective as it appears virtually certain that the government will now delay its implementation. Industry Minister Christian Paradis has remained silent on the issue, but last week the Canadian Marketing Association told its members that further consultations are now planned and that the law will not take effect until the middle of 2012 at the earliest.
It is important to get the regulations right so that Canadians are better protected from online threats and business does not grind to a halt. But establishing new consent requirements or requiring changes to some online business methods are the point of the law, not something to be eviscerated through the fine print of regulation.