Over the last few years, efforts to crack down on spam have led to the introduction of laws that are changing how you can send marketing messages. The most recent (and strictest) of these laws is the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL), which was first introduced in July of 2014. CASL requires businesses to have explicit consent from contacts before sending messages to them, and it applies to a variety of channels, including newsletters, email marketing, texts, and social media.
This law is still in its transitional period, but the deadline for compliance is fast approaching: After July 1, 2017, any individual can sue an entity that is believed to be sending spam messages. The consequences for not complying with CASL can be dire, with violators facing large fines.
How can you be sure that you are in compliance with the Canadian Anti-Spam Law? First, you need to understand consent.
Express and Implied Consent
The Canadian Anti-Spam Law breaks down consent into two categories — express and implied. In order to contact someone, senders must receive “a positive or explicit indication of consent” from recipients.
- Express Consent: This form of consent involves either written or oral permission to send a contact specific types of messages. In addition to a description of the messages they will receive, the recipients must also have the sender’s contact information and an understanding that they can unsubscribe at any time.
- Implied Consent: This form of consent comes into play when the recipient has made a purchase or some form of business deal with the sender’s organization within the past two years. In addition, implied consent covers political organizations or charities the recipient has engaged with by making a donation, volunteering, or attending an event.
Identify Your Canadian Contacts
Before you can get express consent from your Canadian contacts, you need to know who they are. While this step might seem simple at first, millions of Canadians use free email addresses from companies like Google or Yahoo. If you don’t have detailed personal information for all of your contacts, it could be impossible to identify the country where they are located. Follow these steps to identify all Canadian contacts in your email lists:
- Check the domain name, segmenting recipients with “.ca” email addresses.
- Cross-reference contact email addresses with their employer’s domain name and check company locations.
- Check personal information for Canadian addresses.
- Use payment information — if your recipients are buying products or services from you, it should be easy to check their billing addresses.
- IP addresses don’t always tell you the specific location of a contact; however, it can provide some extra insight if none of the other methods work.
How to Obtain Express Consent
Businesses should plan out a method of obtaining express consent for all new contacts. First, ensure all forms on your website are CASL-compliant. They should have verbiage that highlights the Canadian Anti-Spam Law and asks the contact to check a box providing explicit permission for you to contact them. This text should discuss the types of emails you will be sending and also remind the contacts that they can withdraw consent at any time.
Next, send an email to all of the Canadian contacts you identified that asks for their consent and that links back to your landing page. Double opt-ins, which confirm the recipient is giving consent by clicking on a link in an email they receive after agreeing to receive messages, can help your case if there is a dispute. You are also encouraged to convert contacts with implied consent to those that have given express consent.
Businesses should also include a notice in all email templates that highlights CASL and that the contacts are receiving your emails because they have given express consent.
Ensure Messages Are in Compliance
The Canadian Anti-Spam Law stipulates that businesses include three components in each message they send:
- Who you are: Include text that clearly establishes the identity of your business.
- Contact information: This ensures that recipients can get in touch with you if needed, and provides additional identifying information. Include a mailing address, email address, and phone number.
- A clear way to unsubscribe: Ensure that your unsubscribe link is visible, easy to use, and working properly. Under CASL, unsubscribe requests must be honored within 10 days.
Additionally, businesses should document the consent they receive and work with an attorney to ensure compliance.