If you, or your clients send email into Canada, it's high time you oriented yourself with Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), due to come into effect in 2013. With fines of up to $10 million CAD in place for non-compliance, it's also a very costly law to get on the wrong side of.
The good news is that if you already abide by Campaign Monitor's anti-spam policy, you're most probably already in the clear. However, it's worth taking the opportunity to review your subscribe forms and other channels by which you allow subscribers to opt-in to your lists, to make sure they abide by CASL's requirements.
Before you say, 'well, this doesn't apply to me', an interesting thing to note is that CASL can come into effect even if the end recipient isn't based in Canada. If an email message is routed in Canadian territory (such as by an ISP's mail server), then it's expected to abide by the legislation. Given the distributed nature of the Internet, its unwise to make any assumptions about how email travels from our mail servers (which are based in the US, mind) to their final destinations.
The CASL requirements most likely to affect email senders are in regards to 'express consent', or how senders gain permission to email subscribers. Under the law, a sender must state:
What this means is that subscribe forms in particular have to carefully state why email addresses are being collected and who is collecting them. This can be as simple as a message like:
Sign up for ABC Widgets' weekly email newsletter. We'll be sending you offers and information about our products - don't worry, we won't share your email with anyone and you can unsubscribe at any time.
If this seems a little wordy, it's because we're covering all bases - for one, CASL requires that email campaigns feature an unsubscribe mechanism, which is something we want to inform subscribers of prior to opting-in. If you send using Campaign Monitor, an unsubscribe link is a standard part of your campaigns.
On a related note, the CASL unsubscribe requirement also applies to transactional email - Word to the Wise wrote a strong argument for featuring unsubscribe links in both recurring and one-off sends.
The second big requirement is that email campaigns include information that personally identifies the sender. This information must be correct for at least 60 days after the message is sent. Contact information should include a name or company name, a postal address, or phone number that you or your client can be contacted on. Our template builder creates templates with an editable space in the footer for including contact information.
Finally, the From: address in your campaigns should be real and regularly-monitored - here's why a no-reply address is an email marketing no-no.
These changes in the law are also a solid prompt to check your permission reminders. While not a requirement, permission reminders do help keep spam complaints to a minimum. Even a short message like...
You are receiving this email because you signed up for ABC Widgets' weekly newsletter on our site
... can make all the difference. Subscribers may forget that they've signed up for a list and at first glance, assume a message is spam. Sometimes a little prompting like this can be all it takes to jog the memory.
This new Canadian law may have been dubbed 'the toughest anti-spam law the world has ever seen', but in reality, it's fairly easy for legitimate senders to abide by. Secondly, it's for the good of all - similar anti-spam legislation in Australia resulted in a measurable decrease in spam traffic following its introduction in 2003. We think the Canadian approach is a step in the right direction when it comes to distinguishing the awesome campaigns we send from email spam and security threats - hopefully it will prove to be a great model for other countries to follow.
Do you think that Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation is a good thing for email senders? Do similar laws exist in your country? Let us know in the comments below.
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