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No exceptions for new anti-spam bill

Business groups are concerned the anti-spam bill being considered by a parliamentary committee will hurt their ability to reach new customers by requiring consent before sending and e-mail

Canadian business groups calling for exemptions to an anti-spam bill are risking a continued deluge of spam and loss of productivity, says a Conservative MP.

Bill C-27 or the Electronic Commerce Protection Act is currently before the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology. Politicians are debating whether to include more exceptions in the bill. But the Conservatives are opposed to such a move.

Many spammers operate out of Canada and a strict law is needed to deal with them, says committee chair Michael Chong.

“We will drive these spammers and their illegal activities from Canada,” he says. “I don’t want to water down the bill. We don’t want to be a haven for this type of activity.”

The crux of the anti-spam legislation is that businesses must get consent before e-mailing a person. The aim is to cut down on the deluge of spam clogging e-mail servers – sometimes as much as 90 per cent of all e-mail received.

Some business groups are concerned the new law would prevent them from reaching new customers. The Entertainment Software Association and the Canadian Intellectual Property Council are claiming the bill creates a competitive disadvantage, according to the blog of Michael Geist, an Internet law expert at the University of Ottawa.

Last week, Liberal and Bloc Quebecois members of the committee put forward 40 proposed changes to the bill. Most are new exemptions, including product updates, market research, when a person has published his e-mail address, and if a person is referred by someone else.

“The sum total of these changes would be pretty significant,” Geist writes. “It is clear that the lobby groups would like more, particularly a shift from opt-in to opt-out consent.”

The Canadian Federation of Independent Businesses (CFIB) would like to see an exception added to allow referrals, says Corrine Pohlmann, the vice-president of national affairs. Small companies could suffer if not able to make new contacts through e-mail.

“Their market is local and they depend on referrals,” she says. “Allowing them to send that initial e-mail out to that client is important.”