What You Need to Know: Canadian Anti Spam Legislation

Tom Mairs
Jul. 1, 2014 by Tom Mairs

Message Systems clients are among the highest volume senders in the world. They are also typically very aware of their customer engagement and manage their sending practices carefully. They are MAAWG and OTA members, follow CAN-SPAM guidelines and are typically the progressive leaders in the email delivery space. That is exactly why this article will be of interest to them and to anyone interested in good delivery and engagement practices.

On July 1st 2014 the Canadian Anti Spam Legislation act (CASL) will come into full effect, so you should be aware of how it may impact your business. The launch of CASL ushers in a new era of government enforcement to protect a citizen’s mailbox. This is not just a set of rules and guidelines; it is an enforceable law.

If you are not aware of the CASL project, here is a little light reading for you.

The legislation has been in the works for several years and is finally now being put in force. Now Canadian citizens can take strong legal action against any one of the people or companies that send Unsolicited Commercial Email (UCE) AKA SPAM. This is real and the Canadian government is very serious about protecting Canadian mailboxes.

Even more important, this does not just affect people *IN* Canada, it applies to all Canadian citizens regardless of where their email inbox lives. That means that if you have been ignoring it because it is a “Canadian” law, you should think again. Sending UCE to any Canadian citizen, regardless of where their mailbox lives, needs to be addressed. Of course, sending one piece of UCE is really not criminal as long as you follow the accepted CAN-SPAM guidelines as well. When a user unsubscribes you need to unsubscribe them. Continuing to send mail to a Canadian who has specifically unsubscribed is when you run into some hot water – and it is very hot water. CASL has real penalties that hurt where it counts.

“The maximum amount of [cash penalty], per violation, for an individual is $1 million, and for a business, it is $10 million.”– CASL FAQ

Canadians like me have been inundated with mail in the past week by senders wanting to confirm approval for mail. Any of the mailing lists Canadians subscribe to have been sending a small reminder to confirm their request for email. Any responsible sender who knows you are Canadian, has been reaching out to make sure you are ok with their newsletters and marketing messages. No one wants to get caught on the wrong end of this big stick.

Even my power company is asking for permission to send:

 

WE REQUIRE YOUR CONSENT

We value our relationship with you, and in anticipation of the federal anti-spam legislation, that we will be required to comply with, we kindly ask for your consent to continue to provide relevant information including: publications, announcements, invitations, promotional messages about our products and services, and other messages, which will be collectively referred to as Communications.

Be assured, we will only send you relevant Communications which we believe you will be interested in receiving. If we do not receive your consent before the new anti-spam laws come into effect July 1, 2014, our ability to continue sending you Communications may be restricted.

Please click here to provide your consent

Or copy and paste the URL below into your Internet browser:

https://[redacted]

THANK YOU FOR BEING A VALUED CUSTOMER

 

This is the first time in history that citizens have had the power to directly and financially impact an offending SPAM sender. While CAN-SPAM allowed for some financial fines, they are hardly punitive. Fines in Australia and Europe are tougher, but still not nearly what Canada is talking about. If you skipped over that link above to the CASL website, you may want to go back and take a look as there are good resources for individuals and business about the act.

The history behind CASL goes back several years and really owes some lineage to the CAN-SPAM project enacted in the US in 2003. While the rules have good intention, and all responsible senders do their best to follow them, active spam senders are aware of how difficult it is to actually enforce them and penalize the offenders. CAN-SPAM is effectively a list of standards of good practice as opposed to an enforceable law. The good news is that the responsible senders who follow CAN-SPAM make it very easy to join and remove yourself from a mailing list. CAN-SPAM was the first kick at controlling SPAM and UCE and has been effective with legitimate senders, but has been relatively “toothless” on actual illegal senders. Relatively few known “spammers” have be affected by any real penalties or jail time.

CASL is an actual law that is enforceable, and that should have known spammers thinking twice about sending Canadians any unsolicited mail. It should also have good senders  carefully reviewing their databases and updating their practices. That double opt-in is now more important than ever. Ignoring an unsubscribe request 5 times could result in a fine of up to $50 Million CAD. Don’t be that guy.

It will be interesting to watch this play out.

2 Comments

  • I believe the term you’re thinking of is “confirmed opt-in”, not “double opt-in”. The term you use is spammer double talk trying to confuse the issue. To confirm a subscription for a mailing list only requires a single confirmation, not twice as suggested by “double opt-in”.

    http://www.spamhaus.org/faq/section/Marketing%20FAQs#353

    Reply
  • Thank you for the insightful comment, you are correct.

    My intention was to convey the concept of confirmed opt-in, but the term “double opt-in” is used even in legitimate circles (incorrectly) to mean the process of requiring a second
    touch from a user to confirm their intention to opt-in.

    Reply

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