We have all encountered spam at some point or another while scrolling through the web or sifting through our email inboxes. Some people – and even some software – are really great at identifying it and dealing with it, but some are not.

Here in Canada, it’s been six years since anti-spam legislation was rolled out. Is your organization fully compliant? No great marketer wants to be a spammer – and I’m here to reframe the concept of spam. Keep your company from being blocked by firewalls and spam filters by following CASL regulations – in Canada or beyond. It will up your marketing game and it just makes good sense.

Introducing you to CASL

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) came into effect on July 14, 2014 to protect Canadians, while also 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 as spam?”

There are two types of spam. The first one is the use of electronic messaging (like email) to send unsolicited, undesired or illegal messages to others without their consent. It may also 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, and 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/use of personal information without permission.

The other kind of SPAM? Well, that’s processed pork meat, which electronic spam is actually named after. We’ll just focus on the electronic kind for now.

What is NOT considered spam?

This list includes:

  • 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 2000s 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 real, authentic, brand-name SPAM.

How can I remain compliant with CASL?

The goal is to be the king – or better yet, the 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? In 2016, Kellogg Canada was fined $60,000 just for sending messages to recipients without their consent. They’re not kidding around with this.

Fun Fact: In Italy, you can actually be imprisoned for sending spam. It is important to be informed of these rules, as some services, like 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:

  • Ensuring 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 providing a way out. Include an obvious opt-out or unsubscribe option in your email messages.
  • Making sure you and the viewer can easily identify your organization. Otherwise, your credibility is questioned and you might be considered spam;
  • Being truthful (Lay everything out on the table – no surprises, no nonsense); and
  • Don’t harass people! If someone isn’t interested in what you have to offer and they ask you to stop, then 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.)

To Finish Off

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 you 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 Queen (or King, as needed) of the CASL.

Now. Wondering how to get your opt-in counts up? Connect with me and let’s talk about how!

Cynthia Sundberg, VP Operations and Administration | cynthias@v-causeway.com | www.linkedin.com/in/cynthia-sundberg-6742481