We have all encountered spam at some point or another while scrolling through the web or sifting through your email inbox. Some people – and even software – are really great at identifying it and dealing with it, but some are not. While nobody likes receiving spam, the fact is many businesses are actively sending spam even though they’re convinced what they have to say doesn’t qualify as spam. Perhaps they’re inviting people to an event they are hosting, or offering them a great piece of content (such as this blog post) with the intent to educate them. Their intentions are good but, in the eyes of the law, their actions are bad and that could result in some nasty consequences.
Introducing you to CASL
Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) came into effect on July 14, 2014, to protect Canadian’s while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete in the marketplace. This means that if you are a business in Canada, or send information to Canadian residents, you are required to comply with CASL. The law covers a range of activities that are considered spam but for the purposes of this post, we’ll focus on the email kind.
That’s a great law but what counts a spam?
There are two types of spam, the first one is the use of electronic messaging to send unsolicited, undesired or illegal messages to others without their consent and may be used to send other electronic threats such as spyware and viruses.
According to the Government of Canada’s website Fightspam.gc.ca (which contains no spam), electronic spam includes:
- Electronic messages you did not ask for, including email, social media, text messages;
- Messages from anonymous senders or senders you don’t know;
- The installation of apps or program without the express consent of the owner of the system;
- Promoting fake or misleading products or services;
- And the collection and or use of personal information without permission.
The other kind of SPAM is processed pork meat, which electronic spam is actually named after. We’ll focus on the electronic kind for now.
What is not considered spam?
- Newsletters and updates you did sign up for (but may find annoying) and provided implied consent;
- Email messages from a person you know (who you may also find annoying), or someone who is trying to contact you personally.
- A terrible chain email from the early 2000’s sent by a friend you know telling you to forward to 10 people or else you’ll have bad luck forever. (sadly, not spam either)
- Generic Luncheon Meat. It’s essentially the same product, but it’s not authentic SPAM.
How can I remain compliant with CASL?
The goal is to be the king, or queen, of CASL and remain compliant with these regulations set out to protect citizens. If you choose to not take part you may be faced with a serious fine of up to $10 million for businesses. Don’t believe me? See here how just last year, Kellogg’s was fined $60,000, just for sending messages to recipients without their consent. They’re not kidding around with this.
FunFact: In Italy, you can actually be imprisoned for sending spam. It is important It be informed of these rules as some services such as Mailchimp have rules that are actually more stringent than some local laws.
To be compliant with these laws the government of Canada has set out some tips to keep you in the clear. These include:
- Ensure you have implied or express consent to contact someone. Never collect email addresses that were not provided to you by their owner. This is where CASL differs from the US CAN-SPAM law. In the US, you can send someone an unsolicited email but you must provide an opt-out. In Canada, you must first obtain permission to contact a person, or they must ”opt-In” before you can send them commercial electronic messages.
- Always provide a way out. Include an obvious opt-out or unsubscribe option in your email messages.
- Make sure you and the viewer can easily identify your organization. Otherwise, your credibility is questioned and you might be considered spam.
- Be truthful. Lay everything out on the table. No surprises, no nonsense.
- Don’t harass people. If someone isn’t interested in what you have to offer and they ask you to stop, stop. There’s a good chance they’re not interested in what you’re trying to sell.
Here’s the full text of the law, if you’re into that or here’s 4 Tips for Contacting Clients Electronically and 3 Things to Think About When Sending Messages. It’s always better to be safe than sorry.
It’s important to note that I am not a lawyer and this article should not be taken as legal advice. This article is intended to be a helpful tool to inform and to begin your own research on the law or to refresh your knowledge for those who are already familiar with it so you can remain in the clear and be the King of CASL.