As the end of the month approaches, the beginning of a new era in Canadian advertising begins with the official implementation of the Canadian Anti-spam Legislation (CASL).
Overwhelmed? There are an enormous amount of resources out there and it’s enough to make you want to stop electronic marketing altogether. After taking a few deep breaths, one minute of your time watching this short video from the Government of Canada can give you a simple overview to bring it back to the basics after reviewing all of the literature:
CEM = Commercial Electronic Message
The anti-spam legislation refers to CEMs, but deciphering what qualifies a message as such can be difficult. According to the official government website for CASL, asking yourself the following questions can help guide your understanding:
- Is the message I am sending a CEM?
- Is one of the purposes to encourage the recipient to participate in commercial activity?
If you are trying to sell something in your email, or have a link to information that is selling something, chances are the message will qualify as a CEM. Most small businesses engage in some form of electronic commercial communication, so everyone should have a plan in place.
Express v. Implicit Consent
Great, so you’ve determined that you indeed engage in Commercial Electronic Messages to communicate with your customers. CASL requires you to obtain consent from all recipients in a couple of different ways – express or implicit consent. But what does that mean? This infographic created by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is helpful for the visual learner, and has plenty of description to explain the differences. In brief,
- Express = explicit consent given by recipient allowing CEM to be sent
- Implicit = implied agreement by recipient to allow CEM to be sent
Be careful! After July 1st, you may not send out a commercial electronic message (including email) in order to obtain direct express consent. According to the CRTC, you may send out the message before July 1st and retain proof of consent for it to be valid once CASL goes into effect.
What does this mean if I am a social enterprise or a non-profit?
Imagine Canada is a great resource for non-profits and social enterprises. Earlier this month they issued an alert that clarifies the advice they have received from Industry Canada on how to interpret CASL for non-profits. They have also put together an informative FAQ for non-profits and registered charities to guide them during this transition period. TechSoup Canada also hosted a webinar on YouTube, which lasts about an hour. Additionally, the Canada Council for the Arts has published this flow chart to help you navigate your way.
Government of Canada CASL information pages
Other great posts
Canada’s anti-spam legislation: What you need to do right now, Business Development Bank of Canada
Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation: Are You Prepared?, Small Business BC
SPAM? But I’m Just Emailing My Customers! 5 Steps to Being CASL Compliant, Women’s Enterprise Centre (scroll down to find the article, it is not located on the top of the page)
Does your business send emails? New rules in effect July 1st!, Canadian Federation of Independent Buisness (CFIB)
Note that this blog post is for informational purposes only and does not qualify as legal advice.
UPDATE Aug 1 2014: We've compiled some infographics published by the Canadian government to make CASL easier to understand. Check them out on the SBA Pinterest page!
How are you adapting to the anti-spam legislation? Share your business tips with other readers!