As a business manager, you have probably heard of the Canadian government’s new anti-spam law that will come into effect on July 1st or, if you prefer, on Canada Day. This year, this usually festive day is maybe causing headaches if you are not sure what the anti-spam law is about and what you need to do about it. Today, I decided to explain you everything you need to know about it so that your business will be ready to face the changes it will bring.
It is very important to know the law and to prepare your company adequately
To Whom Does the Law Apply to?
Before delving into what the law says, it is important to know to whom it applies to. In fact, the law applies to the vast majority of organizations including charities and non-profit organizations. To know if your company is impacted by the law, ask yourself the following questions:
- Do you use email, social media or instant messaging to send commercial or promotional information about your organization to reach your customers, potential customers or other important markets for your business?
- Do you install programs on people’s computers or mobile devices?
- Do you perform these activities in Canada or from Canada?
If you answered yes to one or more of these questions, your business is impacted by the new anti-spam legislation.
What is the Anti-Spam Law?
The law passed by the federal government prohibits the following practices to protect Canadians:
- Sending electronic messages without the consent of the recipient. This includes all messages sent to email addresses, to social media accounts and any text messages sent to cell phones.
- Any change in the transmission of data in a message that causes a user to be redirected to a different page without his consent.
- Any installation of a program on a computer without the owner’s consent.
- Any use of false or misleading information in promoting products or services.
- Any collection of personal information obtained by accessing a computer system using a method that violates federal law.
- Any collection of email addresses obtained using computer programs without the owner’s consent.
In addition, it is important to understand that the law comes into effect in 3 distinct phases. The 1st phase, which is about the content of the law’s Section 6, regulates the sending of commercial electronic messages. This is also the one that will come into effect on July 1st.
The second phase of the anti-spam legislation is connected to the law’s Section 8 and will act on the installation of programs on people’s computers without their consent. It will become effective on January 15th 2015.
Finally, the third phase will target the launch of lawsuits against individuals or companies that do not respect the law. Indeed, starting July 1st 2017, Canadian citizens will be able to launch a lawsuit against people or organizations they deem offenders of the anti-spam legislation.
How Can You Obtain Consent from People to Whom You Send Commercial or Promotional Messages?
By law, consent may be obtained orally or in writing. However, it is you, as a company, that will have the onus of proving that you obtained consent and not your recipients if you are asked to prove the consent of a person to whom you send information electronically.
Please note that there will be a transition period provided by the law. Indeed, when there is already a business or non-business relationship between a business and the people with whom it communicates the consent of these people is implied for 3 years starting on July 1st 2014. During these 3 years, the sending of electronic messages to an individual absolutely must come to an end when he or she tells you to stop. The transition or implied consent period with that person ends at this moment.
Despite the 3 years of implied consent planned by the law, I encourage you to be proactive in your efforts in connection with this legislation and to take action as quickly as possible to obtain the consent of the people you send commercial or promotional messages to. Send them an email in which you mention that you wish to obtain their consent to send them offers or messages that promote your business in the future. Include a button or an image where people can click on to indicate their consent to receive messages from you.
If you send promotional private messages on your social networks, explain the situation to your followers and redirect them to a short form where they can consent to receive your commercial or promotional messages.
If someone does not respond to your attempts to obtain consent, it implies that he or she does not want to receive your communications. After sending a first email, you can send them a reminder email in which you mention that this is the last communication you will have with him or her if you do not get consent. Indeed, it is useless to overwhelm your contacts with emails because:
- The implied consent period of 3 years makes it that you don’t have to obtain the consent of a person with whom you already have a business or non business relationship with to send your messages. (However, if you continue to send electronic messages to people that you just asked their consent and that they have not answered you, your initiative falls flat and it will hurt your image.)
- If the person does not respond to your first email or your email reminder, it is because he or she has no interest in receiving your company’s messages.
In short, by acting proactively and asking the consent of the people you want to send messages to, you will show your good will to be compliant to the law. I therefore recommend you to act in anticipation of the changes that the law will bring.
Who Will Ensure That the Law is Respected and What Are the Fines That Offenders Face?
3 government agencies will work together to ensure that the anti-spam law is respected. They are the CRTC, the Competition Bureau and the Office of the Privacy
Commissioner of Canada.
In addition, the law provides for substantial fines for individuals and companies that perform activities that are against the law. Indeed, fines can be up to $ 1 million per violation for individuals and up to $ 10 million per violation for companies.
Finally, senior executives of a company can be held responsible for the actions of their employees if they directed, authorized or participated in an act prohibited by the law.
This concludes this article on the Canadian government’s new anti-spam legislation that will become effective on July 1st. If you want to read the complete legislation, click here. If you have any questions about the law or you’re wondering what strategy you should implement with respect to this law, do not hesitate to contact us.
Kevin Proulx sur Google+