New Canadian Anti Spam Laws Starting July 1st!

We all hate getting those annoying phone calls from call centres scattered across the world, from companies you have never heard.  Faxes (in the ever rare case that a company still maintains one) will still come through for deals on everything from dream vacations, to sales on toner (very self-serving). The government has taken steps to squash these bothersome solicitations, and come July 1st, 2014, legislation will be coming to do away with spam. Not the tinned ‘meat’, but the unsolicited emails that clog your inbox.  Spam has become ever more bothersome to the average person who may now be receiving dozens, if not hundreds, of these unwanted emails a day. So, is your business part of the problem? Are you looking to stay on the right side of the law come Canada Day? Well, let us take a look at how the new legislation will affect your online marketing initiatives and communications with customers.  

First of all, if you are directly interfacing with a current customer, meaning you are sending an email to them, and only them, asking a question, or letting them know an order is ready, replying to them, etc., then you are not spamming them. I mean, you may be stalking them, but this is not what this legislation is trying to curb.  What it is after is email being sent for commercial purposes, or CEM’s (Commercial Electronic Messages) especially unsolicited messages. 

What is a CEM message?

Well, it is vague, even under the legislation, but as outlined it can pertain to:

  • Offers to purchase, sell, barter or lease a product, goods, a service, land or an interest, or right in land;
  • Offers to provide a business, investment or gaming opportunity;
  • Promoting a person, including the public image of a person, as being a person who does anything referred to above, or who intends to do so.

Still Confused?  Well, that is not surprising. 

As with any new legislation, the devil will be in the details. The main thing as a business owner that you can do to comply with the new legislation is to only use email addresses that you have garnered yourself, and from customers that have given you their consent - whether expressed or implied. The difference between the two is easy. If, on your website you have an option to sign up to your email newsletter and a person does so of their own free will, then you are in the clear.  The same can be said for emails gained through customer sign up forms available in-store, or by directly asking them for the email address.  If they say yes, then they have agreed to receive message from you. Implied, is more of a grey area.  This can be people that you have recently done business with that has garnered an email address, then that address can be used. So, do not go searching online for email addresses and scraping them from websites and adding them to your list. This will get you in trouble – and probably leave a sour taste in the recipient’s mouth regardless. Always remember though, the crutch of this new legislation is that the onus of proving consent is on the sender of the message – not the receiver. So, when faced with a situation you are unsure of, better err on the side of caution, and leave them out.

Another mandatory is that all CEM messages contain an unsubscribe option. This allows a person currently receiving messages from your company to opt out at any time. All law-abiding email newsletter services will automatically have this option embedded into their functionality. So, if you are still sending mass commercial emails from your Outlook, stop!  Sign up to a proper email newsletter service such as Constant Contact or MailChimp (our fav). This will not only let you stay on the right side of the law, it will also help you create more visually appealing messages to customers, and maintain a cleaner and more refined list of customers email addresses and interactions.  

All businesses should be engaging with their customer base constantly – if only to fight for space. One the best and least expensive ways to do this is with email newsletters. It is a closed marketing platform, meaning when a person is reading your email, they are only reading that. Also, by building up a legal email list of your customers email addresses, you are building up a great asset. At any point you can send a message to them, to tell them of a sale happening, informing them of a new product, or a holiday schedule. The main thing to take away from the current legislation is that when sending CEM’s to your customers, always use common sense. If you do not know them, don’t send them an email. Now that you have a little more information, put yourself at ease and don’t sweat the coming of Canada Day.