With the final Industry Committee review of C-27, Canada's anti-spam legislation, set for Monday afternoon, lobby groups have been increasing the pressure all week in an effort to water down many of the bill's key protections. Yesterday, the Canadian Marketing Association chimed in with an emergency bulletin to its members calling on them to lobby for changes to the bill. While the CMA was very supportive of the bill when it appeared before the committee in June, it now wants to kill the core protection in C-27 – a requirement for express opt-in consent.
The use of express opt-in consent is consistent with the experience in countries such as Australia and Japan, who have found that either opt-out (the customer must request off the list) or implied opt-in (the business assumes it has consent based on other factors) is ineffective and prone to abuse. C-27 includes many exceptions (business-to-business, all non-commercial email among them) to protect businesses, but without an express opt-in approach as the default, the law's effectiveness will be severely undermined. While the CMA did not even raise the issue in June, now it wants the bill changed, seeking reforms that would allow for implied consent, particularly where the information is less sensitive. The CMA argues that it needs the reforms to allow marketers to rent lists of potential customers, yet C-27 does nothing to stop renting lists with customer names who have opted-in. Instead, the CMA's change would eviscerate a key foundation of the bill by opening a huge loophole in the consent provisions.
How to respond? As I noted earlier in the week, if Canadians want an anti-spam bill with some teeth, they are going to have to fight for it. Consider writing to Industry Minister Tony Clement, your MP, or the members of the Industry Committee today asking them to support C-27 with an opt-in approach. The members of the committee include: