Mr. Speaker, it is always a privilege to rise in the House, especially on a matter that affects the vast majority of people.
I am referring to Bill C-27, whose purpose is to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating certain fraudulent commercial practices that use email. To do this, the bill would amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act and the Personal Information Protection Act.
With all the modern means of communication at our disposal, we are constantly being solicited. This bill seems at first glance, therefore, to be a good idea. When the House of Commons passed the Telemarketing Act in 2006, a national do not call list was established to reduce telephone solicitation. People who so desire can now put their telephone number on the list, which greatly reduces telephone solicitation.
I say “reduces” because there are still regulations that allow solicitation, although the new act clearly stipulates that if a person asks not to be called any more, the company must immediately stop contacting him. In addition, companies or individuals who want to have the right to contact people must be registered on the list.
Under the act, any person or organization that is not registered or fails to comply with the regulations under the act is liable to a maximum fine of $1,500 for an individual or $15,000 for a corporation.
Initial results show that the list created in September 2008 seems to have had a major effect on solicitation.
There is a simple connection I wanted to draw with the telephone do not call list. All email users are very familiar with spam, that is to say, email sent to sell us products and offer prices and many other annoying things.
In short, I do not know whether other members have noticed, but there seems to have been a considerable increase in the amount of spam over the last few months. It makes me wonder whether companies have not just changed the way they contact consumers.
I do not know specifically whether this Bill C-27 to protect electronic commerce will have the same effect as the telephone do not call list, but it goes without saying that the vast majority of email users I know would greatly appreciate an initiative of this kind.
Bill C-27 has a number of objectives. Its main purpose is to prohibit the sending of commercial electronic messages without the prior consent of the recipient.
Another objective is to protect the integrity of data transmissions by prohibiting other practices related to the unauthorized installation of computer programs. It seems only natural we would want to avoid the use of consumers’ personal information to send spam.
Bill C-27 would therefore prohibit the collection of personal information by means of unauthorized access to computer systems and the unauthorized compiling and distribution of lists of electronic addresses.
It is hard to be against motherhood and apple pie, and we in the Bloc Québécois think that companies that want to email consumers should obtain their consent first.
This bill has some fine objectives therefore. How the act will actually be enforced, though, appears rather complicated. It seems to me upon reading it that three agencies will be involved.
The CRTC must take the necessary steps to take action against the sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages.
At the same time, the Competition Bureau must address misleading and deceptive practices and representations online, including fraudulent emails from financial institutions.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner must also take measures against the collection of personal information via access to a computer and the unauthorized communication of lists of electronic addresses. Lastly, the Telecommunications Act will be amended by the provisions that provide the framework for this new dimension.
I know the government wants to tackle spam, and I agree that it should. Will this bill successfully prevent an American company, for instance, from sending information by email to electronic companies in Quebec and Canada? That is an important question.
I know that a number of countries have established measures like the ones proposed in Bill C-27, and they seem to be producing positive results. In Australia, the United States and Great Britain, the various pieces of legislation to combat spam seem to be making a real difference.
Those countries probably also have a mechanism to reduce the amount of spam coming from other countries.
At first glance, Bill C-27 deserves to be studied further in committee. Establishing measures that will help prevent as much spam as possible from being sent by people who use false representation, prohibited software or who exchange information about email addresses appears to be a good idea.
Of course, we would like to examine the bill's impact and application more carefully with witnesses. We are in favour of the principle of this bill, but we would like it to go to committee so we can hear from and consult with witnesses, and see if Bill C-27 would really meet needs. We would also like to know if it will properly address the spam that consumers are currently receiving.
The Bloc Québécois supports the principle of Bill C-27. It appears to respond to a problem. Unsolicited commercial electronic messages are becoming a serious social and economic problem that undermines the personal and commercial productivity of Quebeckers.
Spam is a real nuisance. It damages computers and networks, contributes to deceptive marketing scams, and invades people's privacy. Spam directly threatens the viability of the Internet as an effective means of communication. The Internet is supposed to be an effective means of communication but clogging it up with spam decreases its effectiveness. It undermines consumer confidence in legitimate e-businesses and hinders electronic transactions.
This is a constantly evolving problem, and the government has finally presented a bill four years after setting up a spam task force. That bill is C-27, the Electronic Commerce Protection Act.
Essentially, this Electronic Commerce Protection Act governs the sending of messages by email, text messaging or instant messaging without consent. Transmission of spam to an electronic mail account, telephone account or other similar account would be prohibited.
The only circumstances under which spam may be sent is when the person to whom the message is sent has consented to receiving it, whether the consent is express or implied.
Here are some of the other prohibitions: No person may alter the transmission data in an electronic message so that the message is delivered to another destination. Nor may they install a computer program on any other person’s computer system or cause an electronic message to be sent from that computer system without the owner's consent.
Bill C-27 suggests a number of administrative recourses, such as a fine of up to $1 million for an individual and $10 million in other cases. The CRTC would be responsible for investigating all complaints and must have the appropriate powers to do so.
Bill C-27 also proposes the provision of a private right of action that would enable companies and individuals to institute proceedings against any wrongdoer, which is similar to a law that has been passed in the U.S. .
Any organization covered by Bill C-27 may, on its own initiative, transmit to the CRTC, the Privacy Commissioner, or the Commissioner of Competition any information in its possession if it deems that information to be related to a violation of the Electronic Commerce Protection Act. These three bodies must also consult each other and may exchange any information in order to fulfill the responsibilities and activities they carry out under their respective statutes. Under certain conditions they may also provide such information to the government of a foreign state or an international organization.
Canada is not the only country to legislate the protection of electronic commerce. As mentioned earlier, other countries have adopted legislation in this regard. I heard one of my colleagues say that Canada is lagging behind in terms of introducing spam legislation.
I also looked at one country among others, France, which introduced a law called “law to support confidence in the digital economy“. This law was adopted in June 2004, and had a six-month transition period. Apart from specific rules set out in the postal and electronic communications code as well as the consumer code, France is required to ensure that solicitations by email, no matter their nature—business, charitable, political, religious, or membership, for example—are subject to personal information protection legislation.
Bill C-27 is not unique when we look at what other countries are doing. The Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of this bill. It meets several objectives that I mentioned earlier and that I would like to summarize. It will prohibit unsolicited emails from a business, protect the integrity of data transmitted by prohibiting practices related to the unauthorized installation of computer programs, prohibit the collection of personal information by accessing computers without the consent of the individuals involved and prohibit the unauthorized compiling or distribution of electronic address lists.
I will close my statement by repeating that the Bloc Québécois is in favour of the principle of Bill C-27, which seeks to assign responsibilities to three organizations we are familiar with and which will regulate email in order to have a much more efficient system of Internet communication.
The proposed legislation is interesting. We are prepared to support it, in principle, so that the bill can be studied in committee.