BY RUSSELL HIXSON - Emails have been sent fast and furiously over the last few weeks as construction companies and associations work to comply with Canada's new anti-spam legislation.
“This law imposes a really significant burden on many organizations, who want to be law-abiding and are doing their best to comply and whose messaging practices are totally legitimate and respect the wishes of their customers,” said Bradley Freedman, a partner at Borden Ladner Gervais LLP
On July 1 new anti-spam laws intended to cut down on unwanted email, social network and text messages went into effect across the country.
The law, passed in December 2010, includes sections that prohibit the sending of commercial electronic messages without the recipient’s consent, collecting personal information through accessing a computer system and harvesting electronic addresses without permission.
Companies, organizations and groups have been sending out subscription request messages to followers.
These requests are asking the recipient if they would like to continue to receive content after the July 1 deadline.
Fiona Famulak, president of the Vancouver Regional Construction Association, said her organization has taken steps to comply with the new laws by changing the sign up process for new members. While she supports efforts to reduce unwanted spam, she is eager to see if and how the laws will be enforced and how its effectiveness will be measured.
“Because it’s not clear how the impact is going to be measured, I think there is a question mark for me,” she said.
“A lot of dollars are going towards this, is there any benefit?”
“I think it is silly legislation,” said Philip Hochstein , president of the Independent Contractors and Businesses Association of B.C.
He expressed disappointment with a Conservative government he thought was interested in smaller government and personal responsibility. Hochstein called it an effort by officials to regulate the internet.
“They can’t, thankfully, and that’s a good thing.”
Hochstein said his association has had to do some cleaning out of its email list, but mostly things have been business as usual following the start of the laws.
The Association of Consulting Engineering Companies – British Columbia has been one of numerous organizations and companies sending out such emails.
“We do try to be very respectful of people’s privacy,” said Keith Sashaw, the association’s president and CEO.
“It’s just a matter of doing the due diligence.”
He noted that while he understands the intent of the laws, the irony is that a large amount of spam originates from outside of the country.
The legislation is not straightforward and some organizations are still trying to sort out what the finer points mean to them and their members.
Lui Garcea, communications manager for the B.C. Construction Safety Alliance, said the non-profit is still awaiting legal advice on how to respond to the new laws.
Because the organization mostly provides free safety information rather than trying to sell products, the alliance may be covered by an exemption.
“It is a big deal,” said Freedman.
He remains sceptical of the legislation.
Freedman noted that much of the spam the laws intend to target doesn’t even originate in Canada and could be beyond its jurisdiction.
He added that even if the law applies, it would likely be ignored by violators.
Enforcement is another issue Freedman is concerned about.
He said that Canadian Truth In Advertising laws have already addressed some of the spam issues, but the laws are difficult to enforce.
Freedman said the government has promised to enforce the new spam laws but he is waiting to see if it will follow through.
The new spam laws are also unique.
He explained that whoever receives the message, must give permission prior to other correspondence being sent. In the U.S., the recipient must be given the opportunity to unsubscribe.
“Canada is an opt-in regime while the U.S. is an opt-out regime,” Freedman said.