Mr. Speaker, I am pleased to rise this afternoon on debate at the third reading stage of Bill C-27, the Electronic Commerce Protection Act, the ECPA.
It has been estimated that spam costs the Canadian economy about $3 billion a year. It costs the economy through the use of such malicious means as malware, spyware, phishing, worms and viruses such as Trojan horses which enter computers. It costs the economy in terms of sapping Canadians' trust in electronic commerce.
Bill C-27 will protect Canadian consumers and businesses from the most damaging and deceptive forms of electronic harms and provide a regulatory regime to protect the privacy and the personal security of Canadians. The rules will encourage confidence in online communications and e-commerce.
The bill before us provides the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner with the tools they need to pursue those who would undermine the online economy and to work with one another and with their international counterparts.
The bill provides sharp teeth: administrative monetary penalties of up to a maximum of $1 million per violation for individuals and up to $10 million for businesses.
The bill before us is the result of a great deal of work by several different sources. On the one hand we have the recommendations of the 2005 report by the task force on spam. The bill has also benefited from Bill S-220 introduced in the other place by former Senator Goldstein.
Some features of the bill before us differ from what the former senator proposed. Perhaps one of the most important is using the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner to enforce the provisions rather than using law enforcement agencies as proposed by Bill S-220.
The RCMP has other urgent law enforcement responsibilities. We should not redirect their resources to the monitoring of unsolicited commercial e-mail.
I believe that both this House and the other place see the wisdom in using regulatory authorities rather than law enforcement agencies to combat spam. The regulatory agencies would be consistent with the regimes that have been put in place in other countries. This system would help promote international cooperation among the various agencies responsible for combatting spam.
In drafting Bill C-27 we have also looked at the experience of other countries in combatting spam. The bill draws upon what has worked in New Zealand, Australia and the United States. We have benefited from their experience, and the bill before us is based on the best and most effective aspects of the legislative initiatives from around the world.
Finally, the bill as amended, which is before us today, has benefited from the work over the past months of the Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology of which I have been a member.
As a result of the committee's work, several key elements of the bill have been strengthened and clarified without diminishing the core principles.
As hon. members know, Bill C-27 adopts an express consent regime designed to give businesses and consumers control over their inbox and over their own computers. It requires that an individual's consent be obtained in order to permit an ongoing commercial relationship. Once consent has been expressed by an individual, it remains until the individual opts out or revokes that consent.
The committee took a careful look at how to ensure that companies that use email to keep in touch with customers do not inadvertently find themselves in violation of the law. The implied consent provision has been expanded to include the conspicuous publication of an electronic address. If one publishes one's email on a website or in a print advertisement, one is considered to have consented to receiving unsolicited commercial messages, provided that the sender's message relates to the business or office one holds. Consent is also implied when one gives out a business card or provides an email address in a letter.
Similarly the amended bill clarifies that when a business is sold, the purchaser has implied consent to contact the customers of that business.
The period of implied consent has been expanded to two years from eighteen months following an initial transaction. This gives businesses an extended period in which to obtain someone's express consent to receive further commercial messages.
We heard from a number of different witnesses in front of committee. This may not have been what some wanted. They might have wanted a longer term, but the two years was agreed upon by the committee, and it was felt to be a reasonable amount of time.
Another area where the bill has been amended is in ensuring that updates to computer programs are not adversely affected by the protections we have put in place against malware and spyware. The committee looked at the impact the bill would have on the installation of computer programs. It has been amended such that the installation of updates is understood as a part of the original contract under which the software was installed.
Let me say a few words about the private right of action included in this bill. Some hon. members have questioned whether a private right of action is needed. A private right complements the enforcement efforts of the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner.
I would remind the House that this feature has been very effective in the United States at shutting down those such as spammers who cause harm to the electronic economy. I believe it will be very effective here in allowing groups or individuals to pursue violators. The private right of action will allow individuals and businesses who suffer financial harm an avenue of recourse through which to be compensated and awarded damages.
Let me reiterate some of the things this bill does. The purpose of the amendments is to clarify some elements of this legislation and to address concerns that were brought forward from the witnesses during the testimony in front of the industry committee. The proposed amendments clarify the concept that legitimate online commercial messages are not prohibited, while reinforcing the vigorous safeguards for businesses and consumers in this bill.
The legislation is about reducing spam and other computer-related threats that discourage the use of electronic commerce and undermine privacy. This legislation restores consumer confidence in online commerce by protecting both consumers and Canadian businesses from unwanted spam. The Government of Canada is delivering on a key commitment that the Prime Minister made to Canadians and Canadian businesses back in the fall of 2008.
The proposed electronic commerce protection act will discourage the use in Canada of the most dangerous, destructive and deceptive forms of spam. Our goal is to ensure confidence in online commerce by addressing the privacy and personal security concerns that consumers associate with spam and related threats which deter consumers from participating in the online marketplace.
The bill proposes that all forms of commercial electronic messages will be treated the same way. Unsolicited text messages and cell phone spam are also prohibited by this legislation. Spam and related online threats can be reduced only through a concerted, cooperative approach aimed at undermining spammers, using a combination of public and private efforts. The Government of Canada continues to work closely with our domestic and international partners to address threats to online commerce.
The proposed government legislation affects the legislative recommendations of the task force on spam, which are a product of extensive consultations with businesses and other stakeholders during the task force's mandate. The legislation allows for administrative monetary penalties to be imposed upon those who violate the law by sending false and misleading email and who attempt to steal personal information.
The legislation also proposes this private right of action, which will allow businesses and individuals to take civil action against those who violate the law. All parties in the House have expressed their desire to strengthen confidence in online commerce. All parties are opposed to spam and see the dangers of it.
We have studied this bill at great length in committee. We have emerged with important amendments to clarify the bill. The time has come to pass the third reading of this bill in order to protect all Canadians.