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New Canadian anti-spam law to be enforced from 1 July 2014

All email marketers need to be aware that businesses in Canada will be forced to ensure that their emails are compliant with tough new anti-spam legislation taking effect on 1st July. Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is touted as one of the strictest email laws in the world and will mean unrestricted implied consent will become a thing of the past.

What is CASL?
Capture2CASL will require businesses to obtain either express “opt-in” or implied consent to send commercial electronic messages (CEMs), which are “any electronic message that encourages participation in a commercial activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit.” This can be anything from email, to SMS, to social media messages, meaning that this legislation is far more broad than others such as CAN-SPAM which are just targeted at emails. This applies to all ingoing and outgoing messages, so if you are emailing someone in Canada from another country, the law still applies to you.

Why is this important?
Capture1This law has been designed with consumers in mind, giving them complete control over their messages and getting rid of anything that they have not explicitly opted into to receive. Before, it was easy for marketers to send email messages with either expressed or implied consent, as long as the email in question had a valid unsubscribe link. Marketers could also collect information through pre-checking of an opt-in box or including email consent in their organization’s terms and conditions.

Marketers will now no longer be able insert email content clauses in their terms and conditions and they must receive clear consent from any recipients by having them check a box manually or adding their email address in a field.

Implied consent will only apply under very limited circumstances such as:

  • A quote for the cost of a product or service.
  • Information that has been specifically requested by the customer.
  • Part of an existing commercial transaction i.e. warranties, safety information about a product the consumer is using or other factual information about memberships, loans, accounts etc.
  • Employment information or benefit plans.

What happens if I ignore this?
Capture2The ramifications are serious! Three Canadian government agencies are responsible for this law and if you are found not to comply with it ‘to the letter’, you could receive a fine of up to $10 million and face criminal chargesThese fines are imposed per violation daily.

What should I do?
We strongly advise you to prepare for CASL now, especially if you have an active customer base in Canada. Some steps we recommend you take are:

  • Review your current databases and ascertain how you got your current contacts (did they consent to be contacted?).
  • Find out if your email lists use implied or express consent.
  • Review sources where you have rented or purchased data lists.
  • Find out how and why you send commercial electronic messages.
  • Record all consents and rejections.
  • Make sure you have unsubscribe mechanisms in all instances.
  • Create or update forms that you use to clearly document when someone has given express permission to be contacted.
  • Make sure your whole organization is aware of the implications of not following this.

For more information,  review information that comes direct from the Canadian Government and find out what you need to do to be compliant.