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How to Comply with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)

You may have heard about the new anti-spam law that is going into effect soon in Canada. Actually, unless you live or do a lot of business in Canada, you probably haven’t, so I’ll give you the brief recap, and then we can look at why it matters to you, even if your business isn’t based in Canada.

The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), which goes into effect July 1, 2014, applies to senders of any form of commercial electronic messaging (CEM), including email. The three focuses of the law are on consent, disclosure, and unsubscribing, but the consent portion is the one that has most marketers concerned. This is because CASL’s requirements go much further than the US CAN-SPAM regulations that most of us are familiar with.

CASL states that a company must obtain 100% express consent prior to sending any CEM, and must have proof of consent, including source and time. Businesses can only rely on implied consent to send CEMs to recipients where there is an existing business relationship.

OK, sure, but this still just applies to Canadian companies, right? Wrong. This legislation relates to any commercial electronic message sent from or accessed by a computer system in Canada.

That means that even recipients that don’t live in Canada are protected under the law if they open your communication while in Canada, whether your company is based in Canada or not.

This is a big deal.

This is a big deal because it puts the onus on marketers to be aware of where (geographically) recipients are opening their email, based on IP address.

Suggestions on How to Comply

While each situation may vary, there are a few things you can do to help make sure you are in compliance.

The first and easiest solution is to only send to people who have explicitly opted in to receive email from you. If you’re doing that, then you’re in good shape.

But what if you’ve purchased a list of contacts or have contacts in your database that haven’t explicitly opted in — maybe they’ve downloaded a whitepaper or attended a webinar, so you’ve been emailing them?

You first need to determine which of your contacts are opening mail in Canada. If you collected country information with your purchased list, or if you ask users for their country when they downloaded a whitepaper or attended a webinar, then you have this info, which is great. If not, you may need to look into geolocation services to identify contacts’ locations based on their IP addresses.  Note that the IP address where the recipient is opening the email is the critical piece here.

Moving forward, you are going to be unable to purchase any contacts based in Canada. That’s great, but you should also make two simple changes to all forms on your site to make sure you are getting the required consent:

  1. Add a country field to all forms that are not expressed opt-in forms. This includes contact forms, webinar registration forms, resource download forms, etc.

  2. If the user selects Canada from the country field, present them with an additional checkbox asking if they would like to receive email updates from your company. You cannot pre-check this box, as the consent has to be a positive action; it can’t just be a lack of a negative action. This field must be explicit in letting them know what they are signing up for and that it will be coming from your organization only.

Note that doing these two things doesn’t completely shield you from the law, as it doesn’t account for people from outside Canada opening your email while in Canada.  However, those folks are (hopefully) less likely to file a complaint. (Note: this is not legal advice and I am not a lawyer, so make these decisions on your own and consult your lawyer, if needed).

Also remember that you can continue sending marketing email to any of your existing customers in Canada due to the existing business relationship. But for all other contacts, you should consider the steps above.

At Newfangled, we’re taking our own advice. We’ve identified all of the Canadian email addresses in our list that have not yet expressly opted in. We can now either run an opt-in campaign prior to July 1st, or we can just remove them from our mailing list. Additionally, we are in the process of adding a country field to all of our forms and having an opt-in checkbox show if the user selects Canada.

By making these few simple changes, you can help ensure that you are following the new legislation and avoid being hit with fees up to $10 million (Canadian dollars, of course).

For more information on the new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, check out the links below:

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