Canada’s Anti-Spam Law: Is Your Vancouver Small Business Ready?

This law comes into effect July 1 – less than three weeks away!

What is “Spam”?

Essentially, it’s unsolicited electronic mail and/or communications. That “junk” folder in your inbox, you know, the one you never open? It’s likely full of spam.

At the core, “spam” is about electronic commerce regulation, which means that it should be important to virtually every small business in Canada. The latest Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) makes three significant changes to the way you communicate and do business with your customers & clients:

1)      Prior expressed consent must now be sought from a recipient before you can send them a commercial electronic message (CEM).

Unlike telemarketing legislation, CEMs are no longer treated as “opt out” eligible; instead CEMs are “opt in” by default, which means you can’t send someone an electronic message without prior expressed consent. Further complicating matters, consent can, for now, be implied in situations where:

  • A previous (<2 yrs) or current business relationship exists.
  • A sign-up form was previously used to access the message.
  • “Business card” consent occurred where someone has given you a card.
  • Verbal requests have been made either in person or on the phone.

CASL also stipulates that implied consent must be replaced with expressed consent by July 1, 2017, so you and your business have a generous three-year window in which to do this, but beware: a message designed to obtain consent is itself considered a CEM under the new legislation! This means that if you do not have implied or expressed consent before July 1, 2014, a message of this nature will violate the law.

2)      An unsubscribe mechanism must be contained in all commercial electronic messages (CEMs).

This function must be valid and function for 60 days after the message is sent.

3)      The sender’s identification must be clear.

Senders must now clearly identify themselves and provide a clear method within the CEM for the recipient to contact the sender. This creates a communication feedback loop; something often not contained in spam.

In the meantime, what can Vancouver small businesses do to prepare before July 1, 2014?

1)      Consider your product life cycle.

Given the two-year leeway provision for retaining business-related e-mail addresses, your e-mail list might always be self-updating if your customers and suppliers are mainly repeats and always return within a two-year period.

2)      Analyze your email recipient lists.

Do you have expressed or implied consent to send CEMs to everyone on your lists? Now is your chance to obtain expressed consent before the conundrum of July 1 is upon all of us. Also, be strategic in your approach. Chances are that if you don’t have expressed consent, your leads aren’t qualified anyway and it might be time to do some housekeeping and revisit your overall marketing strategy.

3)      Focus on quality, not quantity.

Electronic commercial messages are often at the core of inbound marketing activities, and “jacking” your mailing lists only adds contacts, not qualified prospects.

4)      Try and get expressed consent by July 1, 2014.

This last point seems redundant, but there is still time before the deadline approaches to do things without being concerned about regulatory issues. No one can predict exactly how enforcement will work after this date, but we all know how the rules will work until then.

5)     Explore the Federal Government Anti-Spam Legislation Website

If you do anything on this list, at least explore the Federal Government Anti-Spam Legislation Website and get the information your Vancouver small business needs from the source.

Try and look at this legislation as a business opportunity instead of an imposition: go through your mailing lists and and ask yourself: are they current clients? Are they prospects? Are they from a list you bought or borrowed? Are your online communications promoting your business goals?

If you have any questions or would like to know how your local Vancouver Chartered Accountant can help, contact us.