Spam, Blam, No Thank You Ma’am

This past weekend, I received spam email from a local entrepreneur who has recently completed a small business program. This entrepreneur didn’t take the time to know who she was emailing and copied a number of businesses to the same email.

Yes, this was definitely spam by its very definition because it was both Unsolicited and it was bulk email — in other words, there were multiple recipients of the same email.

An electronic message is deemed to be “spam” when:

(1) the recipient’s personal identity and context are irrelevant because the message is equally applicable to many other potential recipients;


(2) the recipient has not verifiably granted deliberate, explicit, and still-revocable permission for it to be sent.

As we all know spam is about consent, not about content. The content of the email is irrelevant; all that matters, by law, is that the message was sent unsolicited and in bulk. This is what makes it spam.

Industry Canada states that any unsolicited email sent to the email address of an individual who did not consent to receive that email could be in violation of the federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and, possibly, other substantially similar provincial legislation.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner has determined that a business email address is personal information and, therefore, protected by PIPEDA. Such information can be collected and used without consent, but only for its intended purposes.

There was a recent situation involving Suzanne Morin and her business email address. Her email address was collected from an online professional association membership directory. She filed a complaint with the Privacy Commissioner because of unsolicited email solicitations she received from a third party.

The Office of the Privacy Commissioner found that one’s business email address is, for the purposes of PIPEDA, personal information. The Office found that the collection and subsequent use of Ms. Morin’s email address for commercial email solicitation was done without her consent and in contravention of the Act.

Other countries have anti-spam regulations.

The United States has their CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing). Australia enacted their Spam Act 2003. The United Kingdom has their Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003. France enacted the Loi pour la confiance dans l’économie numérique 2004. And the European Union has their EC Directive 2003/58/EC.

In the spirit of Dave Carroll and his public commentary on Ms. Irlweg and United Airlines, I would like to state that the Ms. Chesebrough’s and financial and business solution start ups of this world should brush up on why spam is not welcome by business people either at their personal email address or their business address.

Lord knows that when the Electronic Commerce Protection Act Bill — also known as the ECPA — is passed into law in Canada, senders suspected of spamming will experience harsher penalties than the harsh penalties already in place with CAN-SPAM in the U.S.

In fact, once the ECPA bill becomes law, it won’t just be Internet Service Providers who can sue spammers. Yes, in Canada, individuals will be allowed to sue senders suspected of spamming and while the fine is currently set at $200 per item, class action suits could spell the end of businesses that do not take the time to take current and future legislation seriously.

Besides, who would want to do business with someone who so easily disregards the current laws of the land?


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