Legislation aims to limit spam

Canadians likely won’t receive email requests from Nigeria asking for permission to continue sending messages, but over the past few weeks, legitimate companies are asking for consent to do so.

Canada’s new anti-spam legislation requires groups and companies to receive consent by July 1 to continue sending commercial electronic messages such as texts and emails.

Farm groups are included in the new requirements, which can be an onerous task for organizations that rely on electronic messages to communicate with customers and members.

Emails from the Canola Council of Canada regarding its 2014 annual conference include a notice about the anti-spam legislation.

Recipients must click on a bright yellow box to indicate their consent to continue receiving convention updates.

Cole Christianson, communications manager for Alberta Barley, said the group recently began investigating the new legislation and how it will be affected.

“We’re still looking at it to make sure we understand it fully before we do anything. Some people are a little bit further along than we are,” said Christianson.

Sheryl Rae, executive director of the Alberta Federation of Agriculture, said meeting the rules of the new legislation “will be a challenge.”

Rae believes the federation will still be able to send emails to members, but it will be difficult to send notices to media and non-members.

He said penalties range from $1 million for individuals to $10 million for corporations, which means the organization can’t afford to ignore the legislation.

“The fines are high if you don’t comply with the legislation,” said Rae.

Val Orminski, communications co-ordinator for Keystone Agricultural Producers in Manitoba, said she attended a seminar on anti-spam legislation and left thinking it wouldn’t affect the organization.

However, Orminski then reread the part of her notes that said it is illegal to ask for consent electronically once the legislation is in place and started to worry that maybe the organization should be collecting consent before the legislation is enacted.

If the federal government plans to enact such complicated legislation, Orminski thinks it should also create a fact sheet for organizations such as KAP to follow.

Jamie Herle, a lawyer with WMCZ Lawyers in Saskatoon, said the federal government cast a wide net in an attempt to reduce email spam.

Herle said early reports indicate only two or three percent of people who receive the email asking for consent actually consent to continue receiving email. The rest simply ignore the email or purposefully ignore it. Keeping email addresses current and valuable will be a huge problem for some groups.

“That’s going to be a huge problem.

Herle suspects government enforcement may focus on large companies that send out mass emails to set example but will likely also respond to complaints about spam email.

“If there are complaints, they will have to follow through and do something.”

Herle doesn’t know if the legislation will help slow spam, which often originates in foreign countries where it may be difficult to catch the offenders.

The biggest hardship will be for list sellers or list resellers, who must have the third party’s permission to receive the electronic communication.

“They are casting a very wide net to catch a few fish.”

Some Western Producer products are also affected, such as our markets newsletter and other products.

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