Anti-Spam bill will face tough fight over consumer protection

Geist-48X68.jpgPosted by Michael Geist
The recent introduction of the Electronic Commerce Protection Act, Canada's long-awaited anti-spam bill, has been greeted with initial all-party support in the House of Commons. The bill just passed second reading with committee hearings the next step in the legislative process. My weekly technology law column argues that looking ahead, the big fight seems destined to focus on the government's desire to establish a comprehensive regime with tough penalties that apply to most commercial communications to consumers. Consumer groups will likely welcome the reforms, while some business and marketing organizations may paint a gloomy picture of the costs associated with the new regulations.
The bill strives to address most Internet-related consumer harms.
These include email and text message spam, software programs that are secretly installed on users' computers ("spyware"), the use emails and websites that trick users into thinking they are visiting a trusted site ("phishing"), as well as the use of computers infected by viruses to send spam ("botnets").
If enacted into law, the ECPA would make it illegal to send an electronic commercial message without the prior consent of the recipient. This would create an "opt-in" system, whereby, subject to certain exceptions, marketers would have to obtain consumers' consent before sending them commercial messages. Moreover, marketers would be required to meet several form requirements including identifying the sender and providing a mechanism to allow consumers to unsubscribe from receipt of further messages.
In addition to the consent requirements, the ECPA targets the tactics frequently employed by spammers. It would become illegal to harvest email addresses without consent or to alter the transmission information on an electronic message, a rule designed to target phishing practices.
The bill also makes several important amendments to the Competition Act to better ensure that the law captures false or misleading representations. This will grant the Competition Bureau the power to investigate and take action against the use of false headers in emails, false locator information, or the presence of false or misleading content. Click here to read more of Michael's post.

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