Thank you, Mr. Chairman.
Good afternoon, members of the committee. The Desjardins Group thanks you for giving it this opportunity to share its views on bill C-27 with you today.
First of all, allow me to briefly introduce the organization we represent. Desjardins Group is ranked 26th among the 50 most reliable financial institutions in the world, according to the list entitled “World's 50 Safest Banks 2009”. With total assets of approximately $160 billion, it is the largest cooperative financial group in Canada and the 9th largest in the world. Supported by its network of caisses in Quebec and Ontario, as well as the contributions of its subsidiaries, several of which are active across Canada, it offers a complete line of financial products and services to its 5.8 million individual and business members and clients.
Desjardins Group is also a hub of expertise in wealth management, life and health insurance, property and casualty insurance, services for businesses large and small, securities, asset management, venture capital and cutting-edge technology, all within an integrated service model that is one of a kind in Canada.
It must be noted that Desjardins Group has been concerned for quite some time about the problems caused by spam proliferation. The bill is without a doubt an initiative that targets more reliable, safe and secure electronic commerce. However, Desjardins Group believes that some of the bill's provisions will do more to restrict legitimate electronic commerce than to dispel the efforts of ill-intentioned users of this technology.
Bill C-27 needs to be adjusted in such a way as to slow down the proliferation of spam while allowing for the development of electronic commerce and the competitiveness of the Canadian economy. As regards consent, section 2 of the bill is excessively limiting and poses a threat to legitimate electronic commerce. Under the bill, it would be prohibited to send an electronic message requesting consent to receive commercial electronic messages. Desjardins Group believes that it is unrealistic to think that Canadians will give express consent to receive commercial electronic messages on their own initiative. Being far too restrictive, the prohibition of electronic messages requesting consent should be stricken from the bill.
As well, the bill should recognize that certain commercial practices do not constitute unsolicited commercial electronic messages. For example, a company should be able to solicit a client if it has first received a referral. It should be able to do the same if it holds an individual's email address as part of a prior business relationship, where the individual has not withdrawn his or her consent for solicitation purposes, or when a potential client contacts a company to obtain information and does not withdraw his or her consent. Electronic communications following referrals are common practice, they are legitimate and appreciated by clients. As such, the recognition of implied consent should be added to the bill with the possibility of such consent being regulated thereafter.
Another major source of concern not only for Desjardins Group, but for all Canadian companies are the clauses related to the Do Not Call List. We understand that the government does not plan to implement those clauses at this time, but their mere presence within the bill is worrisome. In this respect, it is important to remember that those subject to the act and their partners in government worked for three years on establishing effective regulations for this tool and significant financial and labour resources have gone into achieving compliance. It is therefore quite astonishing that the longevity of the Do Not Call List could be jeopardized just one year after coming into effect. Given these considerations, Desjardins Group recommends that a detailed study and public consultations be carried out before making any modifications to the DNCL.
In conclusion, in Desjardins Group's view, the current text of the EPCA will threaten legitimate electronic commerce.
Quite honestly, the bill seems more geared to protecting service provider bandwidth than electronic commerce itself. With this in mind, we believe that it is essential for certain parameters to be readjusted and for more flexibility to be added to the ECPA in order for it to achieve its intended objectives without discouraging growth in the Canadian economy.
Thank you for your attention.
My colleagues and I would be happy to answer your questions.