By Sharon A.M. MacLean
Canada does not appear on the top 10 list of the world’s spam havens. Yet, we have the most strict spam legislation in the world going into effect on July 1, 2014.
The worst countries according Spamhaus Blocklist are the United States, China, Russian Federation, Japan, Ukraine, United Kingdom, Brazil, Germany, India, and France. Spamhaus compiles data every 24 hours for ISP and NSP sorted by country.
Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is meant to detour shady characters who figure out how to sidestep pesky laws. They won’t be going anywhere soon. Yet, the white hats of the world also have been diligently collaborating with anti-spam software companies to sort out good email from bad. By any measure, Canadians were becoming safer from spam.
Small business that drives Canada’s economy gets caught up in the web by having their future sales impacted through this over-the-top legislation. It serves nobody if owners avoid reaching out to their clients and prospects because it’s too much trouble.
Bill C-28 was meant to drive away unwanted email and texts. Yet, legitimate business people who take the time to educate their customers about products and services need to prove they have consent to connect, including Facebook and Twitter lists.
The real challenge will be prospecting for new customers or re-engaging former clients.
Don’t get me wrong. I don’t like spam either. Staying connected with customers and looking for new clients in this way, however, will prove expensive for the small business person. Government reps at both the federal and Alberta level already recommend that we contact a lawyer for guidance.
Good for the lawyers. They win here.
Here’s what you need to know. CASL refers to sending electronic messages for anything related to a business transaction: advertisements and information about promotions, offers, opportunities and events. Don’t forget about social media, either.
You need express or implied consent to send a message. Express consent means someone who gives you permission to send them a message. That’s easy.
Implied consent is more vague: sender and recipient need to have engaged in a business transaction in the two years prior to sending a message. This could mean the purchase or lease of a product, or entering into or continuing a written contract, or where the recipient has queried the sender in the previous six months. You also can connect if someone has published his or her email address, say on a website.
It will be important for your automatic email distributor to have these compliance requirements built into their marketing systems. Thank goodness my own marketing system, Instant Customer, looked at this over a year ago and upgraded all requirements.
Still, we will rest easier with explicit consent. To get this, you need to:
• Clearly explain the reasons for requesting permission;
• Give the name of the person on whose behalf you’re asking, if different;
• Provide contact information (mailing address and either a phone number or an email address). Do-not reply emails are no longer allowed; and,
• Inform the receiver they can unsubscribe at any time at no cost.
In a review of 17 promotional emails I’ve received over a couple days, I see that all of them were in compliance. Nine either had a street address and email or telephone number; the others provided street address plus email and telephone number. Senders must include a physical postal mailing address and one additional way to contact the sender (e.g. web form, email address or phone number). PO boxes are accepted as a valid address. Anyone working from home who wants to protect their privacy must rent a mail box.
Here are five more key highlights of CASL:
• Consent means taking an action—not a pre-check form field to obtain legitimate consent.
• Unsubscribes must be processed within 10 days.
• Asking, “Are you sure you want to unsubscribe?” doesn’t cut it.
• Transparency is required. You must make it very clear who you are when collecting data and when sending messages.
• If you send an initial email to someone based on a referral, the person who made the referral must be stated in the message.
Are there good points about this legislation?
Yes–probably around the notion that we don’t have a standard set of rules for engagement. Everything else has a Government Knows Better attitude.
There’s another section that is useful: it covers installed software that has no business invading our computers. The deadline for unsolicited installation of computer programs and software is January 15, 2015. Most other countries in the world don’t address this.
This legislation does nothing to assist small business as they work to nurture relationships with clients and prospective customers if they simply decide it’s too much trouble, too expensive or scary to engage. Fines of $10 million will be assigned to companies that break the law.
Registered Canadian charities and political parties do not have to worry about CASL for fundraising efforts. They do still have to comply with unsubscribe requests. It should also be noted that American political parties and charities are not exempt like their Canadian counterparts.
Here’s the link to the law: www.fightspam.gc.ca