Federal Government Suspends Private Right of Action Provision in Anti-Spam Legislation

The federal government has announced changes to the impending Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). Specifically, the private right of action (PRA) provision, which would have allowed class action lawsuits against individuals and organizations in violation of CASL, has been suspended. The provision would have come into effect along with the rest of the legislation July 1. The government will also convene a legislative committee to further examine CASL.

CASL is a piece of legislation meant to deter unsolicited commercial electronic messages (e.g., via e-mail, text, social media, etc.) by imposing stiff fines upon violators. The suspension of the PRA provision is seen as a victory for charities and non-profits which, by virtue of their limited resources, use of volunteers, and the complex nature of the legislation, are at high risk for inadvertent, costly mailing list errors.

“This is great news for charities and for the volunteers from all walks of life who serve on their boards,” said Bruce MacDonald, President and CEO of Imagine Canada, in a recent article about the PRA suspension. “Charities have been working hard to understand and meet their obligations under CASL. Many remain concerned about whether they are fully compliant with the complex regulations, and the majority of organizations we surveyed have incurred significant financial costs attempting to comply. We appreciate the government’s sensitivity to our concerns and we look forward to participating in the anticipated Industry Committee review of the legislation – which we hope will take place soon.”

While the suspension of the PRA provision is good news for non-profits, the remaining parts of the legislation are still scheduled to come into effect July 1. The Globe and Mail has published a special report on the legislation which outlines some of the other provisions of the new law, as well as linking to resources like fightspam.gc.ca which may help reduce confusion around CASL. You can also check out this article from BDC for a quick primer on ways to remain compliant with the new legislation. Finally, TechSoup Canada presents a free webinar, walking non-profits through CASL and what's required by July 1 deadline, June 22, 12-1 p.m. EDT. Register here.

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