Quick reference to two items of interest regarding electronic commerce in Canada from Stats Can and yesterday’s debates in Parliament.
Yesterday, Statistics Canada released information about how much internet shopping was done by Canadians in 2009. Last year, Canadians placed $15.1B in orders for goods and services, up 18% from the $12.8B we spent in 2007. This represented 95 million orders last year, up 32% from the 70 million orders in 2007 – meaning that the average value of each purchase declined from $183 in 2007 to $158 in 2009.
In that same period, residential internet users increased by about 8%, according to the CRTC’s Communications Monitoring Report, making the growth in e-commerce even less impressive. an increase of 18% over 2 years should be disappointing.
So, to restore confidence in electronic commerce, we received word that Bill C-28 was introduced: the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act.
Despite its name, the Bill goes beyond what is needed to fight spam and it remains to be seen whether it will actually fulfill its core purpose:
to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating commercial conduct that discourages the use of electronic means to carry out commercial activities
My concerns regarding the previous incarnation of this Bill have been set out before [here, here and here]. Here is the rub: I look at the real junk that is clogging my email filters and getting past the automated filters. None of it is from legitimate businesses. All of the spam can be characterized as having some variant of fradulent information: the sender is fake; the subject line is false, there is some form of misrepresentation.
None of the pharmeceutical ads or physical enhancement ads or porn or trojan horse emails with fake links to banks present themselves truthfully. Why does the legislation go beyond a prohibition on such fraud? How can this legislation be portrayed as enhancing electronic commerce when the law prohibits sending out a request for consent to be sent commercial messages.
I have trouble understanding how we can plan to prohibit communication in digital form that is perfectly acceptable on paper; our post office depends on revenues generated by the delivery of unsolicited commercial mail. This legislation, as currently written, will increase the cost of conducting electronic commerce in Canada.
I should have included a link to the paper from McCarthy Tetrault from May 2009 in reference to the previous version of Bill C-28, that observed:
Unlike other international anti-spam legislation, the prohibition against unsolicited commercial messages in the ECPA is not limited to messages sent with some element of fraud or misleading information, sent with an “intent to deceive or mislead,” sent to addresses that were gathered using “automated means,” or sent in bulk.