The New Anti-Spam Law of Canada: A primer for email marketers

You’re likely to send commercial emails in Canada if you are a marketer working for a North American firm. You may be aware of the new regulations for commercial email in Canada.

The Canadian Anti-Spam Law was created to combat spammers and provide Canadian law enforcers with better methods to combat malicious senders.

Canada’s definition of “commercial electronic messages,” or CEM, is at the heart of the new law. What is a CEM, then? According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, a CEM is any electronic message that encourages participants to participate in commercial activities, such as advertising or promoting a particular product, service, or person. This law applies to any business or individual who sends CEMs regardless of the expectation of profit.

Messages that are regulated include email, SMS (text messages), and instant messages. Other regulated message delivery vehicles or formats may consist of Web apps, websites, blogs, and voice-over IIPs

This article will examine the impact of this new legislation on commercial emails sent through email.

New Email Sender Regulations

The law now requires that email senders comply with four new requirements.

  1. Consent: To send a CEM, you must have permission, either express or implied.
  2. Identification: You need to identify the sender and yourself clearly.
  3. Unsubscribe Mechanism: Each CEM must contain a mechanism to unsubscribe.
  4. Contact Information: In all CEM communications, you must include a physical address as well as an electronic address.

The Complexity of Consent

The new law is based on four fundamental principles: identification, subscription, and contact information. These are the most obvious. Consent is perhaps less clear.

How can you ensure that you and your organization are compliant with Canadian laws regarding consent?

Consent is a simple term that means the recipient has agreed to receive messages and commercials from you or your company. Consent is only possible before sending an email.

The new law recognizes two forms of consent: express and implicit.

  1. Express consent is a requirement that senders clearly state the reason for the consent. The receiver then provides an email for future communication.
  2. Inferred consent is applicable to messages when (1) the recipient has business relationships with you or your organization or (2) the recipient has made an address public online without stating a refusal to receive CEMs.

Implied consent includes the following:

  • Messages within your company (they must relate to your business).
  • Messages in response to requests
  • Quotes or estimates
  • Receiver
  • Information on security (recalls and warranties)
  • Continued use of your business (recurring purchases)
  • Upgrades or service updates
  • Product deliveries

According to the new regulation, if a recipient is not a customer or client, their implied consent will only be valid for six months. If an existing customer or client does not make any future purchases or subscriptions, their implied consent will expire after two years.

You or your organization can also obtain consent from third parties. You may, for example, have a business partnership with another company that provides similar products and services. As long as both parties adhere to the guidelines and the recipient is made aware that they may receive emails from third parties, you can stay in compliance. In this situation, all users of an email list would have to unsubscribe from the address in question at once.

Documentation and Information Storage

All CEM senders must also store certain information about each recipient’s address. This includes:

  • Type of opt-in email (paper, landing pages, signups, etc.).
  • A sample signup page (if applicable).
  • Date a recipient has opted in
  • The IP address of the connecting device (if applicable).

Auditing your opt-in process and documentation may be a good idea as you or your organization makes changes to conform to Canadian law. You may want to start by examining where and how you store opt-in information, the type of data that you keep, and where you keep your master record.

Consider sending an email to Canadian recipients informing them that you will only email them with their consent. They can give this consent by clicking the link in your email. This is a similar approach to campaigns for reconfirmation.

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