As Canada awaits the implementation a new anti-spam law – one of the toughest anti-spam laws in the world – it’s time businesses in the country got down to work and changed their emailing practices. If you run a business in Canada, you’d better take this seriously because those found violating the law will have to pay huge amounts as penalty; an individual can be fined up to $1 million for violations and an organization up to $10 million! Mind you; the chances of this law being violated are pretty high given its nature and its scope. So, if you don’t want to land yourself in legal trouble, you should definitely keep reading. Here are some things you should know about the law:
- Also known as Bill C-28, this soon-to-come-into-effect law requires recipients explicitly to opt in to receiving e-mails and other electronic communications rather than simply requiring that they be given an opportunity to opt out.
- If you’ve done business with the recipient of your message in the past two years, chances are you have the consent from the recipient to receive commercial. But that implied consent expires after two years (which might be now!), so don’t just rely on the consent. Find a new way to track your business dealings with people on your mailing lists; you might need to remove their names from the list or obtain their explicit consent to keep sending them messages. And you should do that before the two year period comes to an end.
- As suggested by the experts, you need to review your procedures to ensure you know how you obtained contact information and when you last did business with each customer on your lists. You could also seek explicit consent from everyone on your lists before the law comes into effect. Don’t forget to ask all new customers for explicit consent to e-mail them. As Lisa Kember, regional development director in southern Ontario for Constant Contact, puts it, asking first is always the best policy.
- The new law has it that even if you have explicit consent from recipients to receive emails from you, your messages must always offer an easy way for them to unsubscribe from future mailings. You should also mention your physical address apart from your electronic contact information in your emails. We’re not sure if you should make the third party (which you use to send marketing e-mail) include their contact information as well but what we do know is that you should not count on third parties outside Canada to know about the law.
- Verbal consent may not be enough. This, probably, is the negative aspect of this law. Suppose you exchange business cards with a prospective customer at a trade fair and mail him later on. How do you prove that he hadn’t asked you NOT to mail him? Or even if he gave his consent verbally, how do you prove he did? You can keep such problems at bay by asking trade-show visitors to fill out a form requesting information rather than just collecting cards.
- The law has exceptions, though. These exceptions apply if the recipient of your messages is a family member or someone you have a personal relationship with. However, it should involve regular contact with the person within the last two years.
This strict anti-spam law is probably going to come into effect this fall before which you should review procedures and train staff on the new requirements. Don’t forget to give your insurers a call. You want to be fully covered should an unintentional violation occur.