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Impact - A Blog by INM

Getting Ready For The New Canadian Anti-Spam Law

March 1, 2013 by Audrey Poulin
Inbox full of spam

The Government of Canada has been busy lately working on a new Anti-Spam Law that aims to discourage the most damaging forms of Spam in Canada. First written in December 2010, the law was revised in January 2013 and is awaiting a Governor in Council order to take effect. This new law will affect anybody who sends commercial electronic messages that “encourage participation in a commercial activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit”. 

Simply speaking, when sending Commercial Electronic Messages, or CEMs, senders will now have to obtain consent from the recipient first, before sending any communication. This consent can be obtained either verbally or in writing, but it must contain the name of the organization, a mailing address and contact information (phone number or email address), a statement explaining on whose behalf consent is being sought, the identity and contact information of a third-party used to obtain consent. Organizations will also need to include information that identifies them clearly when sending any electronic message. The sender will also have to provide a clear and easy way to unsubscribe from the list of recipients, and must allow recipients to opt-out of all communication sent by the organization and by third-party partners.

Several instances are exempt from this law. CEMs sent to friends or family are considered to have implied consent unless the recipient has indicated that he does not wish to receive messages from that particular sender.  Responses to requests, complaints and inquiries are also exempt from this law. CEMs sent to business-to-business contacts are not considered Spam provided those CEMs are relevant to the business of the recipient. CEMs sent to enforce legal rightsforeign recipients roaming in Canadaare also exempt. Finally, a CEM sent for the first time following up on a third-party referraldoesn’t require consent as long as an existing relationship exists and the message includes the full name of the referrer, the identity of the sender and an un-subscription mechanism.

Once this law comes into effect, any electronic message, whether it is an email, an SMS or a social media update will need to be sent only to addresses for which consent has been given; if your company sends bulk email to reach its customers, the law will only affect you if you have not acquired consent from your recipient, if you do not provide your full address and contact information in your mailers or if you do not have a tool in place to let people easily unsubscribe.

This new law has some severe repercussions. Under this law, organizations can incur fines of up to $10 million dollars and can face criminal and civil charges. It is important to look into your list management and mailing processes now so you can ensure that all your Commercial Electronic Messages are compliant with the Anti-Spam Law when it comes into effect later this year. For more information about the law, visit fightspam.gc.ca