Will Your Next Prospecting Email Violate New Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation?

When President George W. Bush signed the CAN-SPAM act into law in December 2003, it changed the way businesses could communicate with — and market to — customers via email.

Since then, smart (and lawful) businesses have adopted the requirements established in CAN-SPAM, which include telling recipients where they’re located, how to opt out of receiving future emails, and promptly honoring all opt-out requests. By adopting those requirements, companies could mostly rest assured that they were in compliance with the USA law. But now, thanks to Canada’s new anti-spam legislation that takes effect July 1, 2014, businesses with Canadian clients will need to be even more careful about how they communicate via email with their customers.

While the soon-to-be-enacted CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) provides a 3-year transitional period when companies may continue sending emails to existing contacts where implied consent can be documented, the bill stipulates that, beginning July 1, 2014, businesses must secure explicit consent from all new contacts before they send any marketing emails to those Canadian residents. And, beginning July 1, 2017 companies may ONLY send email to Canadian residents who have explicitly provided their consent.

What exactly is the difference between “express” and “implied”?

Basically, express consent is obtained when you directly, clearly, and explicitly ask contacts for their permission to send email messages and they clearly agree to that request. Without those conditions being met, CASL says that you cannot send Canadian citizens any marketing messages. Here are a couple of key points from the Canadian government’s CASL information site to help you better understand the nuance:

  • Unlike CAN-SPAM (which requires email marketers to follow an implied consent,  “opt-out model”), CASL will enforce an “opt-in” model that forces businesses to secure expressed, explicit consent from individuals before they ever send a direct email message.
  • The law will also impact companies that interact with customers and prospects via text message or social networking, requiring those businesses to (again) secure expressed, explicit consent from the individual to communicate via those mediums.
  • For express consent to be achieved, your business must use clear language and fully inform each contact of some key details: the name of the company that will be emailing them and the name of the email marketing vendor that will be delivering those emails, as well as the company’s address, phone number, website, and postal address.


So, aside from directly adhering to those requirements, what can your business do to protect itself against potentially violating this new law?

Hold yourself accountable to the tried and true practice of securing a double opt-in.

Simply put, the double opt-in process delivers a series of confirmations and response emails that require customers to explicitly consent to receiving your emails. Typically, this involves a customer signing up for your emails via a form or field on your website and then clearly consenting to that subscription by clicking a confirmation link in a follow-up email. If they don’t open that email or click that confirmation link, they won’t be added to your contact list, which ultimately protects you against violating the CASL law.

But this process also helps your business in another way: When contacts go through a multi-step process to double opt-in, it demonstrates that they really want to receive your content. Naturally, that gives you greater confidence in the quality of your list and helps you deliver messages to people who you know are genuinely interested in what you have to say and sell.

Still feel a little unsure about the differences between implied and express consent? Feel free to leave a question in the comments section below. I’m happy to answer questions you might have!

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