The Digital Collide: Canada’s War on Spam Gets Stronger in 2014

Posted on April 17, 2014 | Karen Moores | 0 Comments

Mandy Woodland, owner of Mandy Woodland Law, a firm dedicated to business law with expertise in privacy.

Email marketing and direct email campaigns are powerful customer retention tools but on July 1, 2014, Canada’s new Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) will come into effect.

Your business, your employees and especially, the Directors of your team all have a role to play in protecting privacy, information and your team assets through successful implementation and management of CASL.

I asked an Atlantic Canadian lawyer that has a practice focused on privacy and intellectual property, Mandy Woodland, from the boutique law firm Mandy Woodland Law, to talk about the impact of this new legislation on Atlantic Canadian businesses.

The cost of learning about and implementing this new federal law is low compared to the high penalty rates we’ve learned of: fees ranging up to $10 million per organization and as high as 1 million per individual.

Avoiding the spam, cleaning up email and managing your content will all be a part of a post-CASL implementation world for Canada’s digital marketers.

Q: How will this law impact Atlantic Canadian businesses?
This law will change the way that businesses in Canada communicate electronically (marketing, social media) with current and potential customers/clients. If you send commercial electronic messages (CEMs) – something that encourages someone to do business with you – you will be impacted.

Q: Define ‘CEM’ for our Atlantic Business audience – how broad a term is CEM?
CEMs include emails, SMS, or other electronic message that offers to purchase, sell, barter or lease something, to provide a business opportunity, or advertise or promotes business. Among other things, the new law prohibits sending these unless the person receiving it consented, or an exception to consent applies.

Small businesses will be most burdened by the cost of compliance, but penalties are so high that compliance costs are small by comparison.

Q: What does this law mean in terms of changing operations for business leaders and staff?
All businesses should implement a process for tracking consent, and for responding to requests for withdrawal of consent. You should be reviewing and assessing all your current CEMs to first figure out whether they fall within the new law. If they do, be sure you have proper consent or that your CEM fits within an exception.

Otherwise, you need to get consent. Be sure consent is properly obtained, documented, and tracked. Also be aware of time periods and limits for obtaining consent and complying with the law – express consents can’t be obtained after the law comes into effect (July 1, 2014) using CEMs, so obtain consents before that date if possible! CEMs must comply with requirements for format and content; that is, they must contain a purpose for the message, who’s sending it, contact information, and the option to withdraw. Every CEM has to have two methods for opting out: a web-based means and the same means that were used to receive the message.

Business leaders should remember that in many cases, Directors are still liable for actions of employees!

Q: How can we best educate staff on compliance with the new law?
Be proactive.

Consider preparation and strategies to review existing customer/client correspondence. Determine which are CEMs and whether they’re subject to consent requirements. Place ownership of compliance with someone within the organization, who will oversee the compliance process and strategy.
Develop a database to track consents and waivers or exemptions – systems exist for monitoring and tracking consent, so investigate which may be the best fit for you.  

Implement policies and train staff to ensure compliance with CASL. One employee who isn’t aware and sends a CEM without consent can have significant consequences for your business. Create templates and forms which are compliant with CASL (such as compliant CEM forms and easy unsubscribe mechanisms) – this makes consent easier. Review your compliance, and any changes to the law, regularly.

Q: What will the new law mean in terms of penalties?
It remains to be seen how the new law will be enforced, but possible penalties under the law are significant – as much as $10 million per organization and $1 million per individual for violations.

CASL also creates a private right of action that allows compensation of $200 per occurrence, up to $1 million per day of violation.

Learn more from the Government of Canada here: http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/home

More from The Digital Collide…
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