A new sheriff in town: Canada’s anti-spam legislation

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (Bill C-28): How to keep tack of consent informationThere’s a new sheriff in town for anyone involved in email marketing in Canada.

Its name is Bill C-28. It’s been setting up shop over the last year. Its main purpose is to enforce the email behaviour that will soon be expected of you.

Since the government has adopted Bill C-28, the new privacy provisions known as Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), good email behaviour is now the law of the land.

At Greenfield Services, we’re not lawyers, but we’ve already begun helping our clients navigate Bill C-28. Most of them have never heard of it. When the legislation passed in December 2010, they were too busy running their organizations to notice. The government and the Canadian Marketing Association are still working out details of how the bill will be implemented. But it’s time to get ready, and the difference between implied and express consent is a good place to start.

  • If someone has joined your association, they’ve given you express consent to receive your communications. You’ll have a more satisfied member if you invite them to choose the topics, formats, and frequency of communication they want to receive from you, and periodically remind them that the choice is theirs to make. But under CASL, you’re covered.
  • The same could apply to a planner who has a signed contract with a supplier. In the process of securing space at a hotel or contracting an AV company, planners may be deemed to have provided express consent, but the legislation is still a bit vague on that.
  • You will eliminate doubt around expressed consent if you clearly explain what your contact is agreeing to receive, and provide a link to your privacy policy. After they agree, you have to send them a confirmation email. It is strongly recommended that you use a double opt-in format to make sure they’re sure about signing up.
  • If you meet a potential client or prospective member at a dinner or collect their business card at a trade show, you have implied consent to communicate with them. Since they have not specifically said, “yes, communicate with me,” consent is only implied, and the new law says you can only continue communicating for two years. That means you have to note the date of contact and your database has to track it. Then after two years, you must ask for permission to continue communicating.

The same distinction applies to sponsors, exhibitors, and all your other partners. If they sponsor an event, buy an ad, sign up for a booth, they’ve given you their expressed consent to communicate. If they haven’t signed up to a formal business relationship, the consent is implied, and the two-year clock is running.

On the surface, CASL sounds like a relief for anyone who’s been buried in a deluge of email spam. But implementation is complicated, and there may be database issues your organization needs to consider.

About the author:

Doreen is co-founder and Chief Strategist at Greenfield Services Inc., a demand generation consultancy specializing in helping meetings industry organizations grow their business. Fluent in English and French, Doreen graduated from the University of Ottawa with a BBA in Marketing. Before founding Greenfield, Doreen was VP Marketing for The Sutton Place Grande Hotels Group. She also held various sales and marketing positions with Inter-Continental Hotels, Mariposa Cruise Line, Four Seasons Inn on the Park, Park Plaza Hotel Toronto, and Ottawa's Château Laurier. Doreen has been a member of Meeting Professionals International (MPI) since 1989. She began her volunteer involvement in Toronto, joining the Professional Development committee within months of becoming a member. In 1992-93 she took on the presidency of the MPI Toronto Chapter and subsequently served on the Canadian Council of MPI. After she started Greenfield Services and moved to the Canada’s capital, she joined MPI’s Ottawa Chapter. Soon she joined the newsletter committee and then the Board in 2004. She became President of the Ottawa Chapter in 2006, and a member of the MPI Foundation Canada Council in 2008 where she served for two years. This year she is back volunteering at the local level, contributing to the Ottawa Chapter newsletter committee. Doreen is an avid reader and fan of historical fiction, but as soon as the weather warms you'll find her tending to a one-acre perennial and vegetable garden at the home she shares with her husband Heinz, their teenage daughter Iliana and their cat Tommy.

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