Oh Canada, You’re Freaking People Out!Written by Casper Manes on February 5, 2013
You’ve read coverage before here at AllSpammedUp on anti-spam legislation pending in Canada; but as the legislation approaches its date of enforcement, there’s a lot of rumbling out in the world about what Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) means for businesses, both in and outside of Canada’s borders. By the time you are reading this, the period for comments will have come to a close. Here’s what you need to know.
Many people who parse the regulation think that any email they send to a Canadian that even hints at something commercial might cost them up to $1 million dollars, or if they are a business, up to $10 million. They even think that they cannot email their own family members for fear of running afoul of the law. The level of FUD associated with CASL is on par with what we saw around the Mayan Apocalypse, or even Y2K. The fact is this is a well written law that should be a model for other countries.
CASL is similar to the United States’ CAN-SPAM law, but most analysts agree that in this case, the law has some actual teeth to back it up. CASL was passed by the Canadian Parliament back in 2010, but won’t go into effect until Canada’s cabinet issues it, which is expected to happen later this year. CASL addresses spam head on, and covers it whether the messaging is text-based, image-based, or audio-based, and whether sent to people’s email accounts, their cell phones via text message, instant messaging, or even voicemail. CASL prohibits the sending of any commercial electronic messages (CEM) to any Canadian citizen unless that person has explicitly consented to receive such communications. It also addresses the installation of any program on a Canadian citizen’s computer, even going so far as to cover cookies. CASL will apply to senders, either commercial or personal, whether or not they are Canadian or operating within Canada. If the recipient is a Canadian or company within Canada, CASL applies. CASL includes two distinct sets of regulations. One comes from the Canadian Radio Television and Telecommunications Commission and the other from Industry Canada.
There are three key clarifications within CASL that the CRTC provides. They include
- Consent: Explicit consent is not the only type of consent. Pre-existing business relationships imply consent and are sufficient to permit someone to send CEM to a Canadian recipient.
- Contact Information: All CEM must include clear and complete contact information for the sender.
- Unsubscribe methods: All CEM must provide a simple, obvious, and immediate method for recipients to unsubscribe, that must be effective.
While this all seems straight forward, and a really good idea, the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Surrey’s Board of Trade have expressed concerns about the legislation and is lobbying the Canadian government to either alter, delay, or overturn CASL. They are concerned that CASL will adversely impact their members business and also non-profits trying to conduct fund-raising and awareness activities. They also state that CASL will impede commercial speech and will lead to reduced competitiveness and higher prices. They also indicate that CASL may hurt local economies. You can read more about this view of CASL at www.Fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/h_00211.html.
But this is not the unanimous viewpoint of all in Canada. The Gibsons and District Chamber of Commerce is in favour of CASL, stating
“We see very little here to worry about for legitimate businesses and non-profit agencies engaged in electronic marketing.”-Donna McMahon, Director, Gibsons and District Chamber of Commerce.
While less reputable senders of UCE/CEM/spam may object to CASL, legitimate businesses and individuals should not really have any problems with CASL. You can read the entire act at http://laws-lois.justice.gc.ca/eng/acts/E-1.6/index.html and the specific CRTC policy at http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/archive/2012/2012-183.htm.