Taking CASL by Storm: Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation Comes Into Force July 1

On July 1, 2014 new Industry Canada anti-spam legislation will come into force and it will have a huge impact on businesses, not-for-profits and even individuals. Fines for violations of the legislation will range from $1 million for individuals to $10 million for businesses, with additional fines for non-compliant policies! But don’t panic, we’ll all get the hang of it – and you will get points for effort, at least to begin with.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is intended to reduce the number of commercial electronic messages (CEM) that we all get bombarded with and make it harder for companies to harvest information from unsuspecting consumers. Customers who consent to being contacted with CEM must be given adequate information about who will be contacting them, for what purposes, and how they can change their minds and unsubscribe at any later date. Once you have express consent (includes oral or written requests and opt-ins through the use of check boxes indicating that you would like to receive similar information from this company via email or other means, or through the submission of an email address to sign-up for a newsletter), it does not expire – even if it was obtained before the CASL legislation comes into force – until the individual expressly terminates it. Implied consent (where consent is assumed because there is an existing business relationships, existing non-business relationship or when someone whose role is relevant to your business conspicuously publishes their email address) requires express renewal within the 36-month grace period.

Commercial electronic messages (CEM) are any email, text, or social media messages intended to encourage some kind of commercial activity, regardless of whether there is any actual expectation of profit (sales/lease, investment/business opportunity, promotion of an individual, even a request for consent!). This is a marketing activity that will be much more heavily regulated in terms of requiring express consent and regular updates to remove stale contacts.

What does this mean for you when marketing your organization?

CASL means that you can no longer send out mass emails to the wide world on the web promoting products or people without the permission of individuals, given expressly (by entering contact information on your website, or by agreeing verbally) or implicitly (by being in a relationship with you or by conspicuously publishing their contact information which indicates a legitimate business reason for contacting them). The bad news is that we will all still struggle with the age-old marketing challenge of reaching an audience that doesn’t already know how much your services or products could help them – but let’s face it: that has always been the challenge and will no doubt continue to be.

The good news is that it necessitates a human touch in your email marketing that promotes true relationship between businesses and their contacts and is ruled by common sense. Additionally it means that your database will be made up exclusively of quality leads with stellar lead scores! As with most of the changes happening in the online marketing world, the trend is towards quality and ethical behaviour.

So to get ready, here is what you should do step-by-step:

  1. Take stock of all the CEM your organization sends out – who sends it; what does it say; and who does it go to?
  2. Take stock of your CRM – add fields to differentiate between contacts who have given explicit consent or implied consent and the date of last contact so that you can suppress communication with them once implied consent has expired (2017 - and 2 years or 6 months for new contacts after July 1, 2014) if they do not upgrade to express consent.
  3. Make sure that any CEM you send goes only to contacts who have consented (either by having separate lists or purging non-compliant contacts from your database).
  4. Make sure that any CEM you send is CASL-compliant in terms of identifying the sender, the purposes, and making the unsubscribe easy and clear.
  5. Keep CYA records of your due diligence – effort will play a big role in Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) investigations and lawsuits about CASL compliance. Make sure your privacy policy is updated to reflect your efforts and make sure everyone is on board!

Here are the elements your CEM should include:

  • The name of the person sending the message; 
  • Contact information (mailing address and email or telephone number) of the sender; and
  • An easy way for the recipient to unsubscribe at no cost to them.

Here at Redbird, CASL is giving us the chance to clean house and make sure that our contacts are as committed to us as we are to them – and also to make sure they know where to find us.

In the spirit of this new transparency, we invite you to subscribe to our ‘Shared Intelligence’ newsletter by signing-up to the right of this page to receive advanced advice on marketing health companies, raising awareness of diseases and social causes, behavioral change and building sustainability campaigns. We never send more than two emails per month and you can change your mind about hearing from us at any time.

Here are some resources that might be helpful:
Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation, CRTC 
Canada's Law on Spam and Other Electronic Threats, Government of Canada