What you need to know about Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

Many organizations are asking how the new Anti-Spam legislation will affect their current marketing and sales programs. The Anti-Spam law affecting commercial electronic messages is coming into effect on Canada Day, July 1, 2014 and the consequences of violating the terms have penalties ranging from maximums of $1 million per violation for individuals and $10 million for organizations. Not only are the fines intimidating, directors and officers of your organization can also be held liable. Needless to say, it’s pretty important that your organization understands the restrictions applying to any electronic message.

The Anti-Spam legislation applies to a commercial electronic message, which is defined as any message send to an electronic address that is meant to encourage the recipient to participate in commercial activity. These messages include SMS messages and emails and even some via social media that promote a product or service and encourages purchase or buy-in.

The legislation doesn’t necessary stop organizations from sending marketing emails to their existing clients or new contacts, but there are some restrictions.

There are three important elements outlined by the legislation you must have when sending marketing or sales emails:

1. Have your obtained express consent either verbally or in writing?
2. Are you providing your identification information in each message (name, organization, and address)?
3. Do your communications include an unsubscribe mechanism?

It is not good enough to know this information, you must be able to prove it if needed. The Compliance and Enforcement Information Bulletin CRTC 2012-548 has some helpful tips in proving express consent. Those suggestions include recording key pieces of data including how and when consent was obtained.

Complications arise for organizations with databases of existing contacts that they may or may not have express consent data for. You may have a contact list that has individuals or organizations who have given you implied consent to email them. Implied consent can mean you met them at a tradeshow and you added them to your marketing list because they didn’t say they didn’t want to be emailed.

How can you convert implied consent contacts to express consent contacts

The first step is ensuring you have a system in place that can provide email tracking and unsubscribe options. Relying on anything but a professional solution, such as Constant Contact or ClickDimensions for Microsoft Dynamics CRM, will make it almost impossible to track unsubscribe requests and other data. Check all of your email templates to ensure a contact name, address, and organization is included in each outgoing message. Most importantly, there must be an option to unsubscribe from your email communications.

Send out an email to your implied contact list and ask them to confirm their subscription preferences. Note: a pre-checked box does not count as gathering express consent; the contact must select the box.

It is important to know that there is a three-year grace period beginning July 1, 2014 that allows you to continue to send messages to your implied list as long as they don’t unsubscribe during that time and you continue to email them. This grace period is designed to give you time to convert your implied consent list to express consent contacts.

We know that this is a big topic and we hope we’ve shed some light on it for you.

Disclaimer: Although we have made every effort to present accurate data here in this article, we encourage you to read up on this topic for yourself. Visit these sites for more detailed information: Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation and Compliance and Enforcement Information Bulletin CRTC 2012-548

By Malcolm Roach, CEO of Open Door Technology