So, it's been about two weeks since Canada’s SPAM regulations have gone into effect, and there's certainly a lot of mixed results and debate. An article from The Globe and Mail is certainly taking the position that the regulations are ill formed and ineffective: "The anti-spam law is a ludicrous example of regulatory overkill." They may be right to a certain extent.
Are Consumers Truly Reaping the Benefits?
Overall, consumers seem to be on board because they are happy to have less email to weed through each day. However, in the long term, these regulations may have negative effects on consumers as well as businesses.
While there has been noticeable lighter inboxes throughout Canada during this time period, are consumers actually reaping the benefits? Yes and no, likely. While they certainly have less email to deal with, it's very probable that many of those consumers would have learned about products or services that they will never know about through commercial emails.
Are Businesses Being Unfairly Punished?
Many small businesses are struggling with what is actually defined as "commercial email' and is, therefore, allowable (as are many lawyers, who also have trouble deciphering the regulation). While it's certainly not SPAM, a business could potentially be fined for sending an email to one customer reminding them of services they are entitled to. Many legitimate, non-spam emails are lumped in to "commercial email" and, therefore, leaving many businesses to consult lawyers and worry that their friendly reminder could cost their company extremely large amounts of money.
Is it Actually Stopping SPAM?
Due to the sweeping and confusing terminology of the laws, they technically apply to many emails that were not initially intended. Lawyer Barry Sookman listed some emails that technically would be non-compliant (and therefore justifiable to fine the sender):
- An email from your niece asking you to help with her tuition fees.
- An email from the kid down the block to all his parents' friends, offering to mow their lawns.
- An email from a friend's daughter selling Girl Guide cookies to raise money for a school trip.
- An e-mail to your old university acquaintances telling them about your new business startup.
In addition, it's still very unlikely that the laws will prevent true spammers (like Nigerian Princes and bank account phishers) from sending unwanted emails. Emails from true spammers were illegal already and never seemed to have a problem finding their way into inboxes.