October 19, 2009 – Toronto – In its brief to the federal government’s Standing Committee on Industry, Science and Technology which is reviewing the Electronic Commerce Protection Act, Advocis, The Financial Advisors Association of Canada, stated that financial advisors and planners need to be able to continue to use current technology to conduct legitimate business. If this legislation proceeds as drafted, legitimate business activity will be prevented and advisors and planners will be unable to communicate effectively and efficiently with potential clients.
“While the objective to end unwanted and harmful spam is highly laudable, there must be modifications to this legislation to mitigate its serious, but no doubt unintentional, consequences for financial advisors and planners,” said Greg Pollock, Advocis’ president and CEO. “This legislation will hamstring legitimate commerce.”
The standing committee has concluded hearing from witnesses and is now beginning a line by line review of the legislation followed by a report to the House of Commons. Advocis urges the standing committee to make necessary changes to the legislation so that legitimate business activities are not obstructed. In its brief to the standing committee, Advocis noted that everyone should be protected against dangerous and unwanted email. However, as the legislation is worded, an advisor or planner would not be able to follow up by email on any legitimate referral -the most important way to generate new business and the way many consumers are able to identify professionals who are trusted by the people they know.
The other concern with the legislation, in its current iteration, is that it requires consumers and businesses to provide prior consent to receive an electronic message, with very limited exceptions. This will mean that financial advisors and planners will have more difficulty reaching out to potential clients who are interested in receiving information and advice on important financial issues. Less contact with financial professionals means fewer consumers have access to professional financial advice.
“The government has an important and difficult task at hand but it can’t lose focus on the goals of the legislation. Without question, Canadians need protection against fraud, phishing, misleading advertising and bulk spam emails. But consumers also need access to advice offered by financial advisors and planners,” continued Mr. Pollock. “If the government casts too wide a net, it will catch too many unintended and legitimate business practices and inhibit consumers’ access to advice.”
Advocis, The Financial Advisors Association of Canada, is the oldest and largest voluntary membership association of financial advisors and planners in Canada. With more than 10,000 advisors and planners in 43 chapters across Canada, Advocis members provide financial advice, product service and employee benefit planning to millions of Canadians in areas including estate and retirement planning, wealth management, risk management and tax planning. For more information about Advocis, visit www.advocis.ca.