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A New Sheriff In Town: Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation, Part 1

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There’s a new sheriff in town for anyone involved in email marketing in Canada.

Its name is Bill C-28. It’s been setting up shop over the last year. Its main purpose is to enforce the email behaviour that Miss Manners would always expect of you.

Except that, since the government adopted Bill C-28, the new privacy provisions known as Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), this is one area where good behaviour is now the law of the land.

We’re not lawyers, but we’ve already begun helping our clients navigate Bill C-28. Most of them have never heard of it—when the legislation passed in December 2010, they were too busy running their associations or businesses to notice. The government and the Canadian Marketing Association are still working out details of how the bill will be implemented. But it’s time to get ready, and the difference between implied and expressed consent is a good place to start.

·         If someone has joined your organization, they’ve given you expressed consent to receive your communications. You’ll have a more satisfied member if you invite them to choose the topics, formats, and frequency of communication they want to receive from you, and periodically remind them that the choice is theirs to make. But under CASL, you’re covered.

·         If you meet a prospective member at a dinner or collect their business card at a trade show, you have implied consent to communicate with them—but only for two years. That means your booth representatives have to note the date of contact and your database has to track it.

·         Expressed consent is only valid if you clearly explain what your contact is agreeing to receive, and provide a link to your privacy policy. After they agree, you have to send them a confirmation email, and we strongly recommend using a double opt-in format to make sure they’re sure about signing up.

The same distinction applies to funders, exhibitors, and all your other partners. If they sponsor an event, buy an ad, sign up for a booth, they’ve given you their expressed consent to communicate. If they haven’t signed up to a formal business relationship, the consent is implied, and the two-year clock is running.

On the surface, CASL sounds like a relief for anyone who’s been buried in a deluge of email spam. But implementation is complicated, and we’ve already begun advising our clients on the database issues that result. We’ll deal with those issues in Parts 2 and Part 3 of this blog series.