In a news release on June 7, the Government announced that it was suspending the implementation of the “private right of action” provisions in Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL), in response to broad-based concerns raised by businesses, charities and the not-for-profit sector. The private right of action would have allowed affected individuals to bring lawsuits against organizations and their officers, directors and agents for alleged CASL violations, and to claim compensatory damages, as well as statutory damages in the amount of $200 per contravention up to a maximum of $1 million for each day on which a contravention occurred. However, it is important to note that CASL otherwise remains in force, and complaints may continue to be investigated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, which has the authority to impose administrative penalties of up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses. In particular the deadline for companies to transition from implied consent to express consent remains in place for July 1st.
With less than four weeks before the scheduled coming-into-force date for CASL’s private right of action, the Government stated that “Canadians deserve an effective law that protects them from spam and other electronic threats that lead to harassment, identity theft and fraud. At the same time, Canadian businesses, charities and non-profit groups should not have to bear the burden of unnecessary red tape and costs to comply with the legislation.”
The Honourable Navdeep Bains, Minister of Innovation, Science and Economic Development, added that “Canadians deserve to be protected from spam and other electronic threats so that they can have confidence in digital technology. At the same time, businesses, charities and other non-profit groups should have reasonable ways to communicate electronically with Canadians. We have listened to the concerns of stakeholders and are committed to striking the right balance.”
For those reasons, the Government announced that it would ask a parliamentary committee to review the legislation, in keeping with the existing provisions of CASL.
While it remains unclear whether the private right of action provisions will come into force at a later time, individuals and businesses, including foreign-based organizations, that send commercial electronic messages to Canada or are installing software in Canada, should welcome this opportunity to ensure full compliance with the provisions of CASL.