#CyberFLASH: Digesting Canada’s Tough New Anti-spam Laws


Most Canadians are certainly in favour of reducing unwanted spam in their mailboxes, but Canada’s new anti-spam law (CASL) has been met with hesitation by both businesses and consumers. Critics have called the new law “the world’s toughest anti-spam law.” There are concerns that CASL won’t be effective in combatting the most insidious sources of spam, which often originates outside of Canada. There are also concerns that CASL’s broad provisions will be onerous on Canadian businesses, and that the law is likely to be found unconstitutional, but there really hasn’t been much written on why that is. This post explores these concerns through an international perspective on the fight against spam. When viewed in this context, CASL can be seen in a different light.

For those who don’t know much about CASL, it is legislation that helps encourage electronic commerce and protect Canadians from spam by regulating conduct that discourages the use of electronic commercial activities that compromise privacy. CASL prohibits sending unsolicited commercial electronic messages (CEM) to electronic addresses in Canada, as well as installing computer programs without express consent, and altering transmission data. The CEM provisions of CASL came into force on July 1, 2014. Additional provisions regulating the installation of computer programs will come into force on January 15, 2015, and there will be a private right of action available to those complaining of violations as of July 1, 2017. There are steep penalties for CASL violations, including administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) up to $1,000,000 per violation for individuals and up to $10,000,000 per violation for businesses. Directors and officers can also be held vicariously liability for violations under the Act.

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