Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
On behalf of the Canadian Marketing Association, we're very pleased to appear before your committee to speak about CMA's view of Bill C-27, the proposed Electronic Commerce Protection Act. Joining me here today is the chairperson of our association's ethics and privacy committee, Madam Barbara Robins, who is also vice-president of legal and regulatory affairs for Canada, Asia-Pacific, and Latin America for Reader's Digest.
The Canadian Marketing Association is the largest marketing association in Canada, with 800 corporate members and subsidiaries, including the country's major financial institutions, insurance companies, publishers, retailers, charitable organizations, agencies, relationship marketers, and those involved in e-business and Internet marketing. The association has a code of ethics and standards of practice that is mandatory for our membership. It is a self-regulatory code that provides CMA members and other marketers with a comprehensive set of best practices, including those related to consent-based e-mail marketing. The CMA was pleased to be a significant contributor to the 2004 and 2005 task force on spam. While there have been many changes in both the economy and relevant technologies since the work of the task force, we're pleased to see that many of its recommendations are reflected in Bill C-27.
Electronic commerce in Canada has evolved rapidly, and it has grown to become a key marketing channel. Research conducted for CMA by Global Insight calculated that for 2007 the Internet as a marketing channel drove nearly $17 billion in sales revenue and supported some 75,000 jobs in Canada. The current economic climate notwithstanding, this is a channel that will continue to grow and is expected to become the dominant driver, with anticipated sales revenue to climb to nearly $46 billion by 2011.
The 2009 global consumer e-mail study issued by Epsilon confirms that e-mail is the primary online communications tool for 87% of North Americans and that it continues to grow as a means replacing traditional transactions. Unfortunately, people identify two-thirds of that e-mail as spam, and that view, along with more serious spam-related threats of fraud and identify theft, continues to undermine consumer confidence in the channel. At the same time, ethical businesses see their brands hijacked and online customer relationships jeopardized.
The CMA supports the Electronic Commerce Protection Act because we believe it will put in place a framework and enforcement regime to significantly reduce spam and go after malicious online activity while balancing that goal with the need to promote economic activity and allow responsible marketers to continue using the channel for consent-based electronic communication. We do have some comments and specific suggestions that we believe would make Bill C-27 a better piece of legislation.
First, CMA believes it is premature and unnecessary to include clauses 64 and 86, the provisions that would allow for the dismantling of the national do-not-call program. While the government correctly points out that technology convergence may at some point make this a sensible option, we believe that such proposed changes, along with an assessment of the program, should be brought back to Parliament for careful consideration at such a time. At this point, the only real measures of the program consist of a Harris/Decima survey conducted for the Marketing Research and Intelligence Association, which found that 80% of the nearly seven million Canadians who have registered for the service find that they are getting fewer calls.
We're also pleased to see the exemption in the bill for business-to-business commercial electronic messages that is set out in paragraph 6(5)(b). Although we do feel that the current language could prove to be more restrictive than intended, we understand that Parliament does not want to impede regular communications between businesses. To clarify this point, the committee could look at alternative language, perhaps that used in Alberta's Personal Information Protection Act, to exempt the business contact information. That language would accept all business-to-business electronic communication that--and this is a quote from the Alberta legislation--
is for the purposes of contacting an individual in that individual's capacity as an employee or an official of an organization and for no other purpose.
We expect that other witnesses will offer more detailed assessments; however, we recognize there is a concern about the installation of the computer programs prohibition that's contained in clause 8, and that could adversely affect some commonly accepted and routine online interactions. These include software transfers to facilitate program updates and to identify browser preferences so as to enhance users' online experiences.
We believe the committee needs to carefully examine these provisions with the input of expert witnesses, with an eye to providing greater clarity as to the impact.
CMA supports the notion that the ECPA requires adequate penalties as part of an effective enforcement regime. However, we are concerned that the multi-million-dollar administrative monetary penalties proposed in the bill are excessive, given that they are not subject to the same rules of evidence and due process of civil and criminal proceedings. So we would ask that the committee consider the potential chilling effect this could have on law-abiding companies engaged in commercial electronic communications.
I point out to the committee that when the national do-not-call program was put in place, the penalties in that act were up to $1,500 for individuals and up to $15,000 for companies, for each transgression. The penalties in Bill C-27 are considerably larger than that.
We recognize that the ECPA takes a different approach than the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States, but we have a couple of suggestions to improve consistency between the two laws. Specifically, we suggest that the required contents of a message be changed to specify that only the identity of the sender need be included in the message. We also suggest that the timeframe for executing unsubscribed requests should be clarified as being 10 working days. In the act currently, it is 10 days, and making that small change would put marketers who are engaged in marketing campaigns across both countries on the same page in terms of the legal requirements.
Finally, we take this opportunity to ask for the committee's support in urging the government to commit to a thorough public communications program when the law goes into effect. We ask that the government adopt a pre-implementation program and timetable that will promote business preparedness for the new framework. This will help to build compliance, while at the same time reducing consumer complaints.
Barbara, do you have anything to add?