Alert! New Anti-Spam Legislation in Canada (And How It Affects Your Email Marketing)

On July 1, 2014, new anti-spam legislation will be enforced in Canada. Called “Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation” (CASL), this new legislation drastically changes how businesses can communicate to customers, particularly through email marketing.

It will apply to any businesses sending commercial electronic messages (CEM) to or from Canada. This means that even if you are a Canadian company sending emails to customers in another country, you must still be compliant with CASL. Similarly, any international companies communicating with Canadian customers must also play by these new rules.

Your organization must prepare for this new legislation now, before it comes into effect. Significant fines will be applied to organizations that do not comply – up to $10 million for corporations or $1 million for individuals.

A “commercial electronic message” is any electronic communication with the purpose of encouraging the recipient to participate in a commercial activity.

3 Rules of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

1. Consent: You must have expressed or implied consent to send a message.

If you send a CEM, it is your responsibility to prove you obtained consent. You can obtain consent either orally or in writing, and you must explain why consent is being sought (e.g. so you can send email newsletters).

It is important for businesses sending email communications to know that you cannot pre-check an opt-in box on a form. This will no longer count as consent under the new CASL. Your customer or prospect must take a positive, deliberate action to volunteer to receive communication from you.

On that note, if a visitor to your website fills out a form requesting information or contact with you, you may contact them to respond to that request. However, you may not automatically sign them up for an email list as well. They must give separate consent to receive your email newsletter, offers, etc.

2. Identification: You must clearly and simply identify yourself and anyone on whose behalf the message is sent.

Do not mislead recipients as to who you are, or what the subject of your CEM is.  

You must include contact information as well: a mailing address, as well as a telephone number, email address, and/or web address.

If you send a CEM through media other than email (e.g. Twitter, text message) where including identification and contact information is not practical, you must have a prominent page on your website with the appropriate information.

3. Unsubscribe Mechanism: In each message, you must provide a way for recipients to unsubscribe.

Somewhere in your communication to recipients, you must provide an unsubscribe option. This option must be clear and easy to find on your emails. Unsubscribing must be quick and simple.

If you are communicating through media other than email (e.g. Twitter, text message) where an unsubscribe is not practical, you must have a readily accessible page on your website with the appropriate instructions.

For more information, see the CASL website or download a PDF from Osler, Hoskin & Harcourt LLP outlining the issues.

We will likely be posting about this topic again in the coming months, as it affects organizations of all sizes that do business in Canada.

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