Enforcement of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) will begin on July 1st, 2014. If you haven’t already prepared for this, you should take time to understand the law and how it can impact your business. The law is being touted as one of the strictest in the world, and CASL can penalize non-compliant businesses more than any other spam law in the world, with fines from $1 million for an individual, to $10 million for an organization.
CASL breaks consent into two groups, express consent and implied consent. To obtain express consent, you will need to state, in exact and simple terms: 1) the purpose for which consent is sought 2) identifying and contact information of your organization (or individual) and 3) state that consent can be withdrawn. It’s important to note that if you don’t have express consent before the July 1st enforcement begins, you won’t be able to send an email after this date asking for consent, because that email will be considered a “commercial electronic message”- the exact sort of message that CASL applies to!
Implied consent will allow you to send commercial electronic messages (CEMs) to recipients who the organization has an existing business relationship with. An existing business relationship could be where a customer has purchased goods or services from you in the past, or when someone contacts you through a contact form on your site. In the case of a previous buyer, you can contact the recipient for 2 years after the purchase (or end date of service- think subscriptions). If someone has previously contacted you, the implied consent is valid for a 6 month period after contact. Implied consent will also refer to cases where there is an existing non-business relationship, such as a charity contacting someone who has previously donated or volunteered with their organization.
So, how should you organize these groups of consent? We would advise tracking all of the following fields:
• Initial consent date
• Upgraded consent date (from implied consent, to express consent)
• Consent level (implied, or express)
• Consent source
• IP address
This will give you enough information to use in segmenting your subscribers and keeping the consent date relevant to who you’re mailing to.
If you aren’t already, you should also be gathering geographic data about your subscribers so you know exactly which ones reside in Canada. Otherwise, there isn’t an easy way to find out which subscribers are impacted by CASL! Don’t think that just because you aren’t in Canada, and the vast majority of your subscribers aren’t either, that you can’t be impacted by this law. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission will be working closely with other countries to enforce this law.
The bottom line is, you need to understand CASL completely to be safe. The best resource to learn more may be the Fightspam.gc.ca website, where the final regulations are posted in full. This resource also includes the official ‘Spam Reporting Centre,’ which will take submissions from consumers, businesses, and other organizations once the law goes into effect.