The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has announced that it has signed a memorandum of understanding with 10 domestic and global enforcement agencies to aid in the enforcement of spam and telemarketing laws. However, while the announcement is certainly a step in the right direction, many of the countries that produce the most spam were not at the table.

The agreement is intended to promote cooperation between the various enforcement agencies, and includes commitments by each signatory to share information and intelligence regarding unsolicited communications, where permitted by the laws of its jurisdiction.

For its part, in Canada, s. 60 of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation permits the government, the CRTC, the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) and the Commissioner of Competition to share information with foreign governments and agencies with respect to investigations and enforcement activities relating to foreign laws that address conduct that is substantially similar to conduct prohibited under Canadian laws regulating unsolicited telecommunications and commercial electronic messages.

In addition to the involvement of the CRTC and the OPC, the memorandum was signed by 9 international agencies, from the U.S., Australia, the Netherlands, the UK, Korea, New Zealand and South Africa.

Each of the signatories to the new MOU is a member of the “London Action Plan” (LAP), a global organization created to promote international spam enforcement cooperation and address spam related problems, such as online fraud and deception, phishing, and dissemination of viruses.

Interestingly, while all signatories are members of the LAP, not all LAP members have signed on to this latest memorandum -- in fact, only about one third of LAP members have signed on. More significantly, absent from the list of signatories are regulatory agencies from 8 of the Top 10 Worst Spam Countries, as compiled by the Spamhaus Project, an international organization that tracks spammers and spam-related activity.

The CRTC has previously entered into similar agreements with the Commissioner of Competition and the OPC, and most recently, announced the signing of an agreement with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission and Federal Communications Commission respecting mutual assistance in the enforcement of laws on commercial email and telemarketing.

Enforcement agencies, including the CRTC, face many challenges in investigating and enforcing unsolicited communications laws where the alleged perpetrators operate from outside of Canada, necessarily requiring the cooperation of local regulatory and enforcement authorities. Some feel that as a result, CRTC enforcement activity disproportionately focuses on known and legitimate domestic companies, many of whom are trying to comply with the rules, rather than on rogue international operators, whose campaigns often have fraudulent objectives.

Hopefully, these new information and intelligence sharing arrangements will assist somewhat with the CRTC’s international enforcement challenge, although the effectiveness of the initiative will be frustrated by the absence of a majority of the biggest spam-producing countries.