Canada’s anti-spam legislation: What you need to do
Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) aims to reduce the amount of unwanted commercial emails received by Canadians. It therefore affects the way you use email and other electronic messages to connect with your customers.
While CASL came into effect in July 2014, some provisions are coming into force on July 1st, 2017. From that date forward, the implied consent of former customers will only be valid if you have had a relationship with them in the last two years. The provisions, known as private right of action, which would have allowed lawsuits to be filed against individuals and organizations for alleged violations of the legislation were suspended by the government on June 7, 2017.
How does it affect your business?
CASL prohibits sending commercial electronic messages (“CEMs”) without the recipient's consent. CEMs are any electronic messages that encourage participation in a commercial activity, even if there is no expectation of profit, including emails, text messages and direct message from social media sites.
In order to send a CEM, your business is required to:
- Obtain consent (implied or express) from the person to whom the CEM is sent
- Include your contact information (i.e. email and mailing address) in the CEM
- Include an unsubscribe mechanism in the CEM
Challenges and opportunities
Perhaps the most challenging aspect of the law for small businesses is contacting potential customers. Failure to comply with CASL can lead to tough penalties for individuals up to $1 million, and corporations up to $10 million, for violating its provisions.
Here are five things you should consider in relation with Canada’s anti-spam laws (CASL).
1. Obtain consents
You have to obtain consent to send commercial electronic messages.
2. Establish anti-spam policies
Outline clear policies in your company for the commercial use of email, text messages and other CEMs addressing the following:
- How to request permission to email
- What contact information to include in a CEM
- What to do if a contact asks you to stop emailing
- Consequences if policies aren’t followed
Train your staff
It’s a good idea to also provide training to your employees.
4. Re-think your approach to email marketing processes
Many businesses have few (or no) formal email marketing processes, particularly as they relate to generating sales leads. Your business may have no idea what your marketing or sales people are emailing and to whom. CASL is a great opportunity to clarify and optimize these processes so that your electronic communications with prospects and customers are standardized and tracked.
5. Implement CRM software
CASL also offers an opportunity for entrepreneurs to implement customer relationship management (CRM) software to track their email marketing efforts. CRM systems can offer a relatively simple way to track communications organization-wide, while helping to tailor marketing outreach to specific clients. They can also help in collecting valuable metrics such as email open rates and marketing-driven website traffic.
To learn more about CASL, visit the Government of Canada website.