Canada is set to enact a law to protect its citizens from spam and other electronic threats. Called the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), the law makes it illegal to send commercial email to a Canadian consumer without their consent. This has the potential to upend email marketing as we know it not just in Canada but for businesses elsewhere who market to Canadian customers via email.
The legislation touches on all aspects of digital communication, including social media, cellphones and email, by which means a Canadian citizen can receive a Commercial Electronic Message (CEM). As defined by the law, a CEM is any electronic message that “encourages participation in a commercial activity.”
After the law takes effect on July 1, 2014, businesses are required to have “express consent” of a Canadian consumer before sending that person a CEM. In other words, consumers would need to explicitly opt-in to receive promotional emails. In addition, businesses also must maintain complete postal addresses for everyone who has given their express consent to be marketed to.
The CASL also places strict boundaries around how to gain a consumer’s “express consent.” An email asking a recipient to opt-in to a commercial email list is itself considered a CEM, and will be illegal under the law. The maximum fines for breaking the law are C$1 million for individuals and C$10 million for corporations per breach.
At least in Canada, gone are the days of buying email address lists and blasting thousands of recipients with unsolicited emails. If you conduct email marketing campaigns and send emails to customers in Canada, you need to read up on the law and figure out what you will do to comply. Though the law takes effect in July, there is a three-year transition period during which time you can continue to send CEMs to existing customers and gain their express consent to continue receiving your commercial emails.
Would you like to see the U.S. adapt similar anti-spam legislation? Let us know!