Does the new Canada Anti-spam legislation (CASL) affect your current business practices?
You may think that your electronic strategy (i.e.: Facebook, Tweets, Newsletters, Text messages), doesn’t fall into the same category as so much other wasteful “spam.” However, new Canadian laws regarding all commercial electronic messages (CEM) are in place that can lump your efforts into the same category. A commercial electronic message is defined as:
… any electronic message that encourages participation in a commercial activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit.
The new Anti-spam law entitled Bill C-28 (AKA: FISA – Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act), is intended to protect the privacy of on-line users, as well as to fight the up-swing of more destructive forms of spam: (i.e.: phishing, identity theft and spyware.) It was passed in December of 2010 and is set to become enforceable in the coming months. For more info on the law, examine the fightspam.gc.ca Fast Facts page.
Penalties are harsh: 1Mil for individual and up to 10Mil for a company that is found liable (Source)
According to the Financial Post article, there will be a three-year “phase in” period to allow companies the time to comply voluntarily to the Anti-spam legislation. But while there appears to be “plenty of time” the rules are complicated.
You need to ensure your electronic marketing methodology is compliant with the anti-spam legislation. If not, you are endangering your own or your clients’ reputation.
The main issue for companies is that of commercial electronic messages: the life’s blood of any email campaign / lead nurturing campaign. Without the ability to employ email lists, what good is an electronic campaign? Certainly such lists shouldn’t be covered by anti-spam rules.
When the new law is in force, it will generally prohibit the:
- sending of commercial electronic messages without the recipient’s consent (permission), including messages to email addresses and social networking accounts, and text messages sent to a cell phone;
Anti-spam rules: Opt-in versus not opting out
The problem will be in showing proof that your email list has “opted in” to receive emails from your company in order to avoid anti-spam penalties. There will be exemptions from the legislation to cover issues like
- The request for a quote
- Communications between customers already in a secure community
- Direct forms of communication
However, it will be the onus of a company to prove an anti-spam policy by showing that they have received either express or implied consent from its clients before continuing to send email to those clients. This basic chart shows how it can work based on current proposals of the legislation (subject to change upon review.)
The CRTC has a mandate stipulating that (beyond anti-spam, issues such as security and hacking), all electronic correspondence must have the email recipient’s consent. Their main concern seems to be protecting the privacy of computer users; as well, protecting their software, their identities and ultimately their safety.
Arguments also suggest that this wide-sweeping anti-spam legislation (CASL) may be unfairly imposing regulations against legitimately operated businesses with no intention of deception, spamming, nor distribute malware / spyware to their customers. Refer again to the Financial Post about the sides of this debate.
However it falls, companies may want to redefine how they do business when it comes to either legitimately creating email lists or (less legitimately), purchasing email lists which is a definite negative now.
Not opting out may no longer be considered implied or express consent. This will add to the confusion when sending newsletters, for example. So beware the consequences. Your current email subscriber list will have to be re-examined to make sure that the appropriate consent has been attained.
It should be more than evident how important it is to properly capture emails on your website and gain email leads in an organic way (as is prescribed using Inbound marketing.) It is so important that your online marketing team be aware of how effective having well-produced landing pages with simple and effective forms in order to get this job done.
Canada’s Anti-Spam Law vs. US CAN-SPAM Act
The Canadian Anti-Spam system is more complicated than the US system. This site shows how Canada has:
- Higher standards for consent (Must ‘opt-in’ rather than simply not opt-out)
- Detailed requirements regarding content
- Larger penalties for corporate non-compliance ($10Mil)
- Messages merely have to be read in Canada (can be sent from elsewhere)
- Disallows the installation of computer programs
- Potential vicarious liability: includes directors, officers, agents, employers of employees
This last entry should be of utmost importance to a publically traded company. The long-term penalty for non-compliance in the face of CASL’s Anti-Spam policy may be a shareholder suit.
Anti-spam rules encourage trust, not purchased email lists
Gone are the days when you could purchase email lists in order to cold-email them. They were too pricey anyway and not as effective at creating a sturdy and trustworthy brand for major businesses.
This is why ColdAd always has and always will employ only the most trusted ways of capturing emails and developing a strategy of email marketing and blog promotion. It’s not about how many emails you can send out. Which after Bill C-28, won’t be as many as before. It’s about developing a secure and trusted relationship with potential clients.
So in the end, if you’re online marketing approach is like ours, then the new legislation isn’t new at all. It’s just a reminder that we’ve been doing the correct thing all along.
Not sure about your email marketing campaign? Let us evaluate it.
How do you interpret this legislation?