Come July 1, Canada’s new anti-spam legislation that aims to curb unwanted commercial electronic mail and messages comes into effect.
The new law, known as Canada’s Anti-spam Legislation (CASL), is one of the most aggressive in the world and comes with penalties of up to $10 million for those who fail to comply.
Under the legislation, any company, domestic or international, requires the recipient’s consent before sending commercial electronic messages including emails and newsletters, messages to social networking accounts, and cellphone text messages.
Besides businesses, nonprofits are also affected, although there is an exemption for messages sent by or on behalf of a registered charity where the primary purpose is to raise funds for the charity.
Consent to receive messages can be provided either in writing or orally, with the onus of proof resting on the sender. Examples of acceptable means of obtaining permission include filling out a consent form at a retail store or checking a tick-box to give permission electronically.
The legislation allows for a transition period until July 1, 2017, where “implied” consent is acceptable. This involves cases where there is an existing relationship between the sender and the recipient that includes communication of commercial electronic messages.
Senders can use this period to obtain the explicit consent of the recipient so they can continue sending messages when the transition period is over.
Commercial electronic messages must clearly identify the sender, or have a link to a website that provides that information. The messages also need to provide unsubscribe options to the recipient.
According to Michael Geist, a professor at the University of Ottawa and the Canada Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law, CASL works much the same way as PIPEDA, the private sector privacy law that most companies presumably already comply with.
“While there are certainly some additional technical requirements and complications (along with tough penalties for failure to comply), the basics of the law involve consent, withdrawal of consent (i.e. unsubscribe), and accessible contact information,” he says on his blog.
Penalties for noncompliance could cost an individual up to $1 million and businesses up to $10 million per violation.
Although among the toughest in the world, CASL trails anti-spam laws in many developed countries that have had legislation covering this issue in place for many years.