Is spam really a problem?! Why Canada’s anti-spam law is misguided (a polite term to mean dumb…)

Daily we are bombarded with unsolicited advertisement. It lurks in the form of TV ads, flyers that we receive in our mailboxes, giant billboards on the highway, in the subway, on the wall above the urinals, and pretty much everywhere. Most are somewhat easy to avoid and can be considered as small annoyances (although flyers contribute to deforestation and billboards to visual pollution). You can switch channel or skip TV ads with a PVR, put those flyers in the recycling bin, or close your eyes when you pee! To me, email spam is no different. You just press ‘Delete’ when you see an email that reads ‘My naked pics are attached’ or ‘Get 300% bigger!!!’. Why spam is a problem that requires special treatment and mucho tax payers’ money is a little puzzling to me. And to be honest, I almost never receive any spam these days. I have had a Hotmail / Outlook account since 1998 (yeah, yeah, I know, I am not a cool kid). Ten years ago, I remember receiving penis enlargement, University of Phoenix, or Nigerian spam daily. But this era is long gone. I guess that spam filters have become quite adept at what they are intended to, i.e. intercepting spam. And this is an email address that has been around for 16 years and that is probably in a large number of spambots lists. I just almost never receive spam.

So, beside the law and consulting firms that will make a ton of money from this law, the upside is not that evident. Spambots will certainly not stop trying to send us spam, neither do Nigerian princes. The only entities that will comply with the CASL are the legitimate businesses. Some have been preparing for three years! It seems pretty obvious to me that this law will affect the Canadian SMEs by putting useless compliance burden on them and restricting their business development activities. Basically with the new law you need to have prior consent to send someone a Commercial Electronic Message (CEM). You cannot send a CEM to anyone unless you can prove that they gave you permission, with some very strict exceptions. One is to have an ongoing business relationship. For SMEs, B2B email marketing is kind of vital to create new partnerships. CASL doesn’t let you send emails to prospective clients until you have a business relationship. But this is exactly what you are trying to achieve!

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