July 1 is historically a great day for Canadians. This year, I was actually in Canada for Canada Day and got to celebrate the 147th birthday of the greatest nation on Earth with my fellow Canucks.
Traditionally this great day is reserved for celebrating Canadian style - in Alberta at least - with a pancake breakfast, some Old Style Pilsner, a BBQ, and fireworks when it gets dark-ish. However, this year was different for many business owners and managers, especially those who conduct email marketing in Canada.
As you likely know, July 1, 2014 was the date Canada enacted its new incredibly tough anti-spam legislation. Since this has gone into effect we have received a number of concerned emails from our clients about this legislation, asking what we are doing about it.
About (not a-boot) the CASL
The CASL, or Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, is a tough new anti-spam law developed by the Government of Canada to deal with the increasing number of spam emails arriving into Canadian email inboxes.
This law has made it illegal, as of 1 July 2014, to send Canadians unsolicited emails. Send an email to someone who has not given you their consent, and you could face a fine of CAD 1 million while your company could face a hefty fine of up to CAD 10 million.
The kicker here is that, unlike other anti-spam laws, Canada's is enforceable to companies operating outside of Canada who contact Canadians. In other words, if you are based in the US but have clients in Canada and send marketing emails to existing and potential clients who have not given their consent to receive emails from you, you could be charged.
The most important thing to be aware of with this law is that you absolutely need consent from people before you contact them for marketing purposes. No consent = no email. This doesn't mean you can't send people commercial emails, that's not the purpose of this law. The Canadian government really just wants to ensure that the commercial/marketing emails sent to people are legitimate and not spam.
To that end, if you are sending emails to Canadians, you need to ensure that:
- You have the recipient's express consent - This can be either oral, or written however you will need to prove that you have obtained consent. In most cases, this will likely be a checkbox that a user has to tick on your website saying something along the lines of "I wish to receive marketing emails from you." You will need to record and save this information because the onus will be on you to prove that you obtained consent.
- You clearly identify your organization - In all marketing related emails you will need to clearly identify yourself (the sender) and the company. This includes a mailing address and either a phone number, email, or web address.
- You provide an unsubscribe option - On each email there needs to be a clearly visible button or link to an unsubscribe function that is functional for at least 60 days after the email is sent. This option should be simple, quick and easy for the end-user to use; if you have more than one screen, or people have to click more than once, chances are this will be deemed ‘too hard.’
- You do not misrepresent yourself or your product - This is kind of common sense, but all emails need to be free of misrepresentation about both the sender and the content of the email. You also need to ensure that URLs and links are legitimate and lead to the source they refer to. The example the CRTC uses to explain this also talks about being truthful e.g., if you are going to have a price, make sure to state whether it's with HST/GST/PST (Canadian sales taxes) or without.
What Pronto is doing about this
We would rather not have to buy the city of Calgary a month's worth of Timbits, or everyone in the GTA a large Double-Double, and are pretty sure you wouldn't either. Of course, the main regulatory and enforcing body named to this law - the CRTC - has noted that they will be enforcing this new bit of legislation with a light-touch; likely issuing warnings to most businesses that break the law. The fines listed above will be reserved for the largest, and repeat, offenders.
We take this legislation seriously, and are pleased to see tougher laws being enacted. Here at Pronto we hate spam as much as the next guy and do try to minimize the possibility of people receiving spam from us. To do this we use Campaign Monitor which has powerful built in anti-spam requirements that ensure compliance with anti-spam bills including the CASL.
What if Pronto manages my newsletters?
Naturally it is good that Pronto is compliant but many of our Canadian clients rely on us to develop and deliver their email campaigns. As such, they are rightly concerned whether the campaigns we send out on their behalf are compliant.
To ensure they are, we offered our Canadian clients a free subscription email campaign back in June. This campaign was sent out on behalf of clients in order to get their readers to confirm their subscription to newsletters and email campaigns. Recipients who opted out were removed from client email lists and should not receive emails.
Our Newsletter Manager, Tanya Ukositkul, states: "We [Pronto's Newsletter Team] have been actively warning and making sure clients with Canadians on their email lists are sending to the re-confirmed list only." She continues, "When it comes to our newsletter sign-up forms on the websites, it won’t be a problem since subscribers already have to confirm their sign-up via email."
Looking at the newsletters sent out, each newsletter has the company name, address and phone number at the bottom along with a visible unsubscribe option. It is our belief that our newsletter platform meets the requirements of the CASL, and providing you don't send emails to people who have not consented to receive them, your business should be CASL compliant.
We do however recommend reviewing your subscription lists in order to make 100% sure every recipient has given their consent. If they have not, it may be a good idea to track them down and ask for it.
And, if you have any CASL related questions please don't hesitate to contact our Newsletter Team who will be more than happy to help answer your queries.