Will the Canadian Anti-Spam Act (CASL) Affect Your Business?

It's important for businesses and brands to consider Internet laws for countries around the world especially when it comes to digitally delivered messages. Canada, one of the last countries to develop an Anti-Spam Act (CASL), is launching their new law starting July 1, 2014  This new law will be rolled out in stages and is similar to the American CAN-SPAM Act that regulates routine business activities such as the sending of marketing emails, text messages, mobile application updates and social media messages.

The main difference is that this law takes the opposite approach of its American counterpart. This new law effectively changes commercial electronic marketing rules in Canada from an "opt-out" standard to an "opt-in" standard. This means businesses that are located in America that market to recipients who live in Canada will be bound by this law and must follow it.

At a high level, Canadian Anti-Spam Act prohibits:

  • Sending commercial electronic messages (CEMs) to an electronic address without consent;
  • Altering transmission data in an electronic message so that the message is delivered to a destination other than or in addition to that specified by the sender;
  • Installing a computer program on a person's computer system without consent; and
  • Causing a program on a person's computer system to send an electronic message.

The major gray area with this law is the definition of "consent" or "opting-in". CASL requires a request for consent to receive commercial electronic messages (CEM), which spans across email, text and mobile applications. This message of consent must clearly and simply state the reasons why a business is requesting consent and what types of messages they intend to send.  Consent can also be implied if an existing business relationship (EBR) or personal relationship exists. To fulfill this requirement a business must have done business with the recipient within the two-year period of when the CEM is received and proof of such relationship is required.

Violation of this law carries a hefty penalty, up to $10 million! Regulations also specify that if violations occur on different days, even if it's part of the same campaign, they can count as separate violations.

What can my business do to be prepared?
American businesses that serve and market to Canadian customers should begin to make preparations for this change immediately.

  • Have a clear understanding of what kind of CEM your business currently uses, or is planning to use in the next few years. This covers email, text, mobile applications, and social messages.
  • Review any software programs that your business makes available, including mobile applications, and make sure appropriate consent for updates and upgrades has been obtained.
  • Attempt to identify the Canadian recipients of such messages, and to figure out how to start converting them to an opt-in regime.
  • Consider implementing a CASL-compliance policy to ensure compliance, particularly if the organization plans to further invest in the Canadian market.

Read more about CASL here: http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/home

Need assistance with analyzing your email marketing lists? The Digital Bungalow team can help! Please contact us to learn more.

Sources:
https://blog.cyveillance.com/general-cyberintel/how-the-canadian-anti-spam-act-will-affect-american-businesses
http://business.financialpost.com/2014/03/25/is-your-franchise-ready-for-canadas-anti-spam-law/
http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/home

Image Source: http://www.royaltext.com/anti-spam-policy-text-marketing/

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