Nova Scotia

Anti-spam law 'should be scrapped': Halifax privacy lawyer

Many Nova Scotia businesses are adjusting their email policies to make sure they don't break a new law meant to cleanse inboxes of unwanted spam, but not everyone thinks the legislation will work.

CASL carries hefty penalties for spammers

The new anti-spam legislation requires agencies to get consent to send emails and texts to customers. Emails must also have unsubscribe features. (File) (Shutterstock)

Many Nova Scotia businesses are adjusting their email policies to make sure they don't break a new law meant to cleanse inboxes of unwanted spam, but not everyone thinks the legislation will work.

Spam messages are those unsolicited emails dumped into your inbox offering everything from miracle cures to cheap vacations.

Starting July 1, organizations will only be able to send commercial emails if the customer has expressed a desire. Under Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) consent is no longer implied. That means organizations can't keep your email on file and then send you a slew of messages when there's a sale three years later. You have to want it to get it.

Emails must also have an unsubscribe feature.

Industry Canada says it's all in a bid to put "vigorous safeguards" in place.

"Canadians should not receive emails they do not want or did not ask to receive and this legislation will protect consumers from spam and other threats that lead to harassment, identity theft and fraud," said Jake Enwright, a spokesman for James Moore, the federal Minister of Industry.

Christopher Megaffin, president of Colonial Honda in Halifax, went to a seminar with other dealers to learn how the new law will affect the way they do business online.

He says his company now has to change the wording on their bills of sale and service repair orders.

"You can't just tick the box and say that they signed this and gave you permission. They will have to tick the box saying that they did," he said.

"If you come in today and you don't purchase a vehicle and we have your email, because you gave it to us, we can contact you for the next six months but we can't after that."

The penalty is hefty: $10 million for companies that violate the policy and up to $1 million for individuals.

Nigerian prince frauds continue

"From a consumer I think it's great because everyone is tired of spam," said Megaffin. "But I also believe that the people who do these kinds of things illegally will keep doing it anyway. And the honest businesses will have to change, but that’s fine. It's a start."

Not everyone thinks it will work.

On Monday, lawyer David Fraser taught businesses and non-profits in Nova Scotia what they need to know before the new law comes down. (CBC)

"I think it should be scrapped," said David Fraser, a privacy lawyer with the Halifax law firm McInnes Cooper.

"This has gone through so many different committees and so many different parts of Industry Canada. It's turned into a real Frankenstein."

The legislation grew out of a task force dating back to 2005, eons ago in the fast-paced technology world, argues Fraser.

"The problem of spam has by and large actually been dealt with via spam filters, kind of better technology and things like that," he said.

Fraser says the law misses the point and lumps in legitimate business communications with fraudulent ones. It also applies to non-profits.

"I think ultimately it's not going to have a big impact on the consumer because the consumer is still going to continue to receive Nigerian fraud inheritance scams and things like that because this legislation, while it purports to regulate people outside of Canada they're going to have a very hard time doing that," he said.

"For those who are already sending out fraudulent emails, they’re already breaking the law. So this probably isn't going to discourage them."

The new rules come into effect on Canada Day, but organizations will have two years to get permission.

Fraser said then individuals will be able to sue.

"We're likely going to see some large class actions. Up to $200 per email message up to $1 million, those are some pretty big bucks and pretty punitive," he said.