Three years ago, Canada brought into force a wide ranging anti-spam law (CASL). On July 1, 2017, important provisions in CASL, which had been held in abeyance, will come into force. It is expected that this development will be one of the biggest litigation stories of the upcoming year.

The provisions to come into force in July will allow individuals who have been affected by certain CASL violations to launch a civil lawsuit against the violators. Currently, only the regulator can enforce the provisions of CASL and seek a remedy for any violations of the law.

Penalties of up to $1 million per day for each violation are contemplated. This number may seem extraordinary until it is considered in the context of class actions. It is expected that class actions will be certified allowing hundreds, even thousands, of individuals to band together in one proceeding, and seek damages collectively. Lawyers who typically represent plaintiffs in class action matters, and do so on a contingency fee basis, have signaled that they are preparing for the new regime.

Many large and mid-sized Canadian companies have already adjusted their practices to comply with CASL. Foreign companies, which are also caught under the law if they spam Canadians, are less prepared.

Companies, big and small, Canadian and foreign, are less aware that CASL also addresses significant non-spam-related matters. Some of these other matters, listed below, may also result in private litigation starting July 1, 2017:

  • A person alters the transmission of commercial electronic messages;
  • Computer programs or apps are installed without permission;
  • A person is targeted and has received false or misleading electronic messages within the meaning of the Competition Act; and
  • A violation of the email harvesting provisions of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) has occurred.

The precise details of how any of these actions will proceed and how they will be addressed are unknown for now. However, there is little dispute that 2017 will be a busy and interesting year for CASL.