Do you know where all your customers live?  Could you possibly have customers in Canada?  Do you email your customers?  Thinking about setting up an email campaign for your customers?  If the answer is yes to the second question, now is the time to learn about the new Canadian Anti Spam Law that comes into effect this July (2014) in Canada, and yes this applies to companies based in the United States and elsewhere.

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This new law is expected to have the most severe penalties in place for those who violate.  The maximum penalty for an individual that sends out spam is $10,000 and $1,000,000 for an organization.

With email marketing making a resurgence of sorts, this new legislation will make it far more difficult for companies to employ new marketing tactics to reach customers and even more difficult to reach prospects.  With 2014 really being the year of mobile (in my opinion), this will definitely throw a wrench into the mix.  Marketers are going to have to come up with new ways to get the coveted attention of the audience.

Here is a synopsis of what you need to know:

1.  Existing Email Lists

If you have an existing relationship, it is expected that you will have a very clear process for opting out if the recipient decides that he or she no longer wishes to receive email.

Implications:  If you do not have a very clear (and easy) process for customers, you are at risk for violating the anti spam law and could be subject to huge fines.

AND here is an important piece of information that is not clear to many.  When you send an email to someone in Canada, it can be considered spam if the email is not relevant to the recipient’s role and/or duties. In order words, send a mass email selling content marketing services and the person is not involved with marketing, you likely just violated the new anti-spam law.

Implications:  This is an important nuance that marketers must be aware of.

2.  Buying New Email Lists

While this new law does not prohibit buying email lists, it is very clear that all parties must adhere to the existing Canadian Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA).  Additionally, the same rules apply for having express consent and also having a clear opt-out process.

Implications:  There will be an extra level of due diligence required for companies both selling and buying lists.  The question you need to ask yourself in order to protect you and your organization is:  Will you be able to determine if Canadians are included in the lists?

3.  Text Messages and “Cellphone” Spam

Think you can still text or reach out by mobile?  Think again.  The same conditions for email apply to these marketing/communications tools.

Implications:  Your text messages now need to have an opt-out option AND you need express consent.  From a personal standpoint I can relate to this. Organizations texting me when I have not signed up to receive texts, is annoying. And, in some cases it can be costly.  This will be an interesting scenario for travellers to the US.  How will mobile companies handle sending text messages to Canadians when we have not expressly consented?  What will happen as a result of unwanted text messages?  Being that we aren’t in Canada, will the law still apply?  What about in cases where we are “near” the US and get messages for mobile service, because borders are not so clear cut in the airwaves?  After all, I have been miles away from the US border and received text messages trying to sell me a roaming package.  

Recommendation:  The best approach is a proactive one.  There is still time for companies to get their lists updated and to obtain express consent.  Send out a proactive communication confirming what information or subscriptions people want. As a result, you will have express consent and by default update your lists.

Do you have concerns over this new legislation?  Are you versed on these changes?  I would love to hear your thoughts.

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