June 28, 2014

What is the CASL?

Spam is an increasingly large issue.
Have you been recently receiving requests from your subscription emails asking for your permission to continue sending emails? Well, this is because Bill C-28, better known as the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), comes into effect on July 1, 2014.

According to the government, this bill will curb unwelcome and unwanted electronic messages out of Canadians’ inboxes, while still allowing businesses and consumers to have a mutually beneficial business relationship. Not only that, but the government also contends that with the implementation of the act, spyware and online fraud will also decrease, as these often use spam emails as a vehicle to get to victims. Because of this, Canada is ranked fourth on the list of countries producing the most spam.

But what exactly is the CASL, and how does it affect people? Well in short, it first forces all commercial businesses in Canada to obtain either direct or implied consent from their recipients before being able to send them commercial electronic messages (CEMs). This obviously applies to emails, but also applies to certain types of social media messaging, as well as MMS and text messaging as well. Secondly, pre-checked in boxes asking for consent or asking users to agree with certain terms and conditions will be banned. Lastly, these CEMs must clearly identify the sender (in this case the business), as well as provide a clear unsubscribe option within each message.

While these rules don’t seem out of the ordinary, the punishments enacted by this piece of legislation are anything but ordinary. With fines up to $10 million, punishments involving civil litigation and charges under the Criminal Code of Canada, and even levying personal responsibility upon the owners of these companies, this piece of legislation is one of the most severe in the world.

In any case, it is likely because of these fines that your online subscriptions have been scrambling to confirm your consent before sending you more messages. And it is also likely that many consumers will be as well, because their inboxes will theoretically be free of a lot less junk. However, this is proving to be quite the annoyance for legitimate companies, as they will have to regain the consent of many of its customers. This is even worse for small businesses, an important part of the Canadian economy due to their lack of manpower to regain that consent.

Probably most importantly, the CASL does not apply to non-commercial activities. As such, charities, Political Parties, and interest groups and the like aren’t subject to the law or its punishments if they aren’t promoting or selling a product.

In the end however, will the CASL actually even be effective at curbing the amount of spam that enters Canadians’ inboxes? Previous experiences with the Do Not Call List (DNCL) and the failure of that legislation in curbing the amount of telemarketing calls has raised questions on whether or not fines are effective, not to mention a lack of policing and enforcement of those punishments. Compared to the telephone, the internet is definitely harder to police and monitor. Not only that but Canada ranks only fourth in the list of countries producing spam while the internet itself remains global – who’s to say that Canadians’ inboxes won’t be filling up with spam from China or the United States? It remains to be seen whether or not this law – armed to the teeth with heavy fines, will actually clean up the inboxes of Canadians.

In the end however, whether or not this legislation will be effective remains to be seen, it officially comes into effect on July 1st, 2014. But regardless, it is definitely a step in the right direction for a government and country in the electronic age we live in today - with the implementation of CASL, Canada puts itself ahead of most of the world in defending its people from online spam.