Canada's new anti-spam law, known as CASL, will take effect on July 1, 2014, forcing organizations to make sure they have the consent of recipients when communicating by email, text messages, social media or other forms of telecommunications. What does this mean to you, the business owner or marketer?
It means by law, you are obligated to have the right systems and processes in place to avoid getting hit by any monetary penalties or criminal sanctions being imposed by the three agencies responsible for its enforcement.
Canada's new anti-spam law was passed in December 2010 by Parliament and most of CASL will come into effect on July 1, 2014. On January 15, 2015, sections of the Act related to the unsolicited installation of computer programs or software will come into force. The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is the primary agency that will enforce the law and issue administrative monetary penalties for violations; the Competition Bureau will seek administrative monetary penalties or criminal sanctions under the Competition Act and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner will exercise new powers under an amended Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).
How you can protect yourself and your business:
- Obtain consent. There are parts of the law that outline implied consent from family and personal relationships. Otherwise, most commercial communication to someone who has not previous communicated with you before requires their approval in advance.
- Record when they gave you the consent and how. This will protect you if you are ever challenged.
- Provide a simple and quick 'unsubscribe' mechanism.
- Implement the right management systems in place right away.
From one level the law should significantly reduce people from getting Spam. It may also have a different effect - that is to force companies to have a much more complex customer communication system.
Subscription preference features are typically built into most email deployment systems, however, it's less common to be able to adjust specific preferences including the nature of the communications, such as selecting to receive information only on a specific topic. Many also don't allow you to select how communication is disseminated, for example being able to opt into text messages instead of email.
This level of preferences is often more a function of a CRM then an email deployment system. Although the new anti-spam law is more of an all or nothing guide to conducting yourself when sending unsolicited communications, it's reasonable to think that even a customer who provided consent to receive communications might still complain if they receive communication too often or about topics or goods they don't care about.
Each of the different ways people stay in touch electronically, from email to "liking" something on Facebook all comprise of various methods of communicating. Recording communication preferences including what each customer wants to receive electronically will require proper recording and management. Generally speaking, email will be the easiest to manage, however it’s unclear how the anti-spam act will draw the line of what it seen as a breach for interactions where customers contact the company through an online review, comments, follows, tweets, etc. and the company then sends some form of reciprocal communication. To be safe, always ask for consent to not only protect yourself from any possible enforcement of the act, but also to show yourself as a responsible marketer and business owner for future clients.
Follow the latest news from the Government of Canada's CASL website.