The Federal Court of Appeal’s ruling on Canada’s anti-spam law puts to rest persistent claims that the law is unconstitutional. As discussed at length in my earlier post, the court firmly rejected the constitutional arguments in finding that the law addresses a real problem and has proven beneficial. The impact of the decision extends beyond just affirming that CASL is (subject to a potential appeal to the Supreme Court of Canada) here to stay. It also provides important guidance on how to interpret the law with analysis of the business-to-business exception, implied consent, and what constitutes a valid unsubscribe mechanism.
Post Tagged with: "spam"
Canada’s anti-spam law has been the target of intense criticism since its introduction in 2009 as the Electronic Commerce Protection Act. Even after the law passed in 2010, there was no shortage of effort to delay the regulations needed to put it into effect. Once it finally took effect in 2014, the criticism continued with a steady stream of fanciful suggestions that it would render promotions of neighbourhood lemonade stands illegal and warnings that the law would invariably be challenged in the courts and ruled unconstitutional. In 2017, just as critics were arguing for reforms to the law at the Industry Committee, the CRTC issued its ruling on the matter, determining that the law was in fact constitutional. The issue then proceeded to the Federal Court of Appeal, which last week unanimously upheld the constitutionality of law.
The government released its response to the House of Commons study on Canada’s anti-spam law this week and while one report suggested that reforms are coming, the reality is that there appears to be little appetite for significant change. I wrote about the law’s effectiveness and appeared before the committee as part of the study. The committee report stopped short of calling for an anti-spam law overhaul, instead recommending clarifications of several provisions in the law.
The Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology has released its final report on CASL, Canada’s anti-spam legislation. While some groups pleaded for a legislative overhaul – Scott Smith of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce “urge[d] this committee to take a stand on this legislation and make recommendations for a significant overhaul” – the committee adopted a far more cautious tone, limiting the recommendations on substantive provisions to “clarifications” of the law. The emphasis on clarification (it even appears in the study title) is clearly intentional, stopping short of specifying any precise legislative amendments. I appeared before the committee, arguing that spam and spyware pose real risks and that there is evidence that the law has been effective in reducing spam and improving the effectiveness of electronic marketing.
Few Canadian laws have sparked as much animosity from the business community as Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL). The law, which took effect in 2014, has faced a barrage of complaints regarding its breadth and cost of implementation. Yet as a House of Commons committee nears the conclusion of a statutorily-mandated CASL review, it has become increasingly clear that the law has worked.
My Globe and Mail op-ed notes that while spam has obviously not disappeared from anyone’s inbox, the law never envisioned eradicating the proliferation of spam, spyware, malware, and other online ills. Rather, new data disclosed at the committee review reveal that Canada is a now a world anti-spam leader, resulting in more effective e-commerce campaigns and a significant reduction in the number of spam organizations operating within Canada.