As a business, entrepreneur or incorporation, do you send messages to other businesses, clients or potential clients by email, text or social media in Canada? If you do, whether individually or as a bulk message, you may face some of the heftiest fines in the world due to a new regulation.
On July 1, 2014 the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) comes into force. This new regulation does more than try to stop annoying spam emails. CASL requires explicit or implicit consent for a commercial business to communicate through email, text message and social media messages, including LinkedIn.
Before I proceed, I want to state that I am a social media consultant — not a lawyer. I am sharing my research that is intended for information only. Speak to your marketing and legal team to further discuss how CASL may, or may not, affect you and your business.
Business and organizations sending commercial electronic messages in Canada are moving from an opt-out to an opt-in consent. To communicate with a recipient, you must have obtained their explicit or implicit consent.
Just because you have a recipient’s email address does not allow you to send them multiple types of emails. For example, if someone signs up for your monthly newsletter you cannot use that same email address (which they opted-in on) to send him or her an email about your 50% off summer sale separate from your newsletter, unless you have clearly indicated that they will receive promotions when they opted into your newsletter. You can only send the recipient your newsletter.
What is explicit versus implicit consent?
Implicit consent: A recipient that has a business relationship with you. i.e. Contract, purchase, lease (past two years), inquiry or application (past six months) or a published email address on their business card or website.
Explicit consent: You have clearly indicated the purpose of your communication (promotional offers, newsletters, etc.) and the receipt has agreed to receive your communication through your opt-in form.
For further examples of implicit and explicit consent, visit: http://www.dentons.com/en/issues-and-opportunities/anti-spam-legislation.aspx
What happens if your business doesn’t comply with CASL regulations?
If someone reports your business there are penalties, including:
- Your business will be fined up to $10,000,000
- Your CEO, and each officer, may be fined up to $1,000,000
- Your Marketing Agency may be fined up to $10,000,000
- You, as an individual, may be fined $10,000
These numbers can make anyone fearful of using digital media for marketing, but there is also an “I Tried My Best” clause. This clause indicates that if you are reported, but you have tried your best to comply with the new regulations, then you will receive some further action steps to ensure you fully comply with CASL. All fines may be dropped.
So how can you stay informed and comply with the new CASL changes?
My recommendation is to act now, before July 1, 2014 to ensure you are compliant with CASL. Below are six steps to help you get prepared.
Step 1: Educate yourself about the changes: Contact your marketing and legal advisors to discuss how these changes will impact your business. Learn more at: http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/E-1.6/index.html
Step 2: Review how your business collects data: Review your online and offline procedures for collecting data. Recipients must be acquired either through explicit or implicit consent.
Step 3: Review your current subscribers: Ensure all your current subscribers and client list have provided you with explicit consent so you can continue to send them messages.
Step 4: Ensure all your forms have double opt-in: Examine all of your sign-up forms to ensure they clearly state what recipients are signing up for. Remove all pre-checked boxes.
Step 5: Make Changes: Remove all non-compliant opt-ins by July 1, 2014.
Step 6: Document: Do your due diligence by documenting all of your efforts to show that you have taken all the necessary steps to be compliant.
We all strive to provide value to our customers and clients. It is good marketing practice to not send messages to people who don’t want to receive them. This regulation helps you to do just that. Offer great value to people who want to receive it, and your business will only grow!
If you found these resources helpful, please share this information with your network to help advise other Canadian businesses of the new CASL changes.