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Does CASL Affect Your Small Business?

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July 30, 2014

Linda Daley, Daley Progress Inc. FacebookTwitter | Blog

Daley Progress Inc. helps busy business owners and independent professionals build relationships and their reputation through their e-newsletters. Read Linda's articles on the Work Better, Not Harder blog.

There’s been a bit of fuss lately about the new Canadian anti-spam laws (CASL). Are you wondering what it’s all about? Or are you ignoring it, hoping it won’t impact you?

If you own a business and are using email, text messaging or social networks to promote products and services, you should know a bit about CASL, which came into effect July 1, 2014. The regulations, impact summary, bulletins, and other resources are detailed and lengthy – this article won’t be nearly as long, but you will get the basics.

First, determine if your electronic message is commercial in nature. The law applies to commercial electronic messages (CEMs) only. A CEM is defined as “encouraging participation in a business transaction or activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit.” Many messages sent in the process of doing business would be considered CEMs.

Here’s what you need to be doing now for those CEMs:

  1. Have the consent of your recipients. The legislation requires you to have "express" or "implied" consent. Express consent means that a person has clearly agreed to receive a CEM before it is sent. Consent may also be implied in certain situations, for instance, if there is an existing relationship.
  2. Identify yourself in the message. Provide contact information, including your business name, mailing address, and either a telephone number or email address.
  3. Include a way for the recipient to unsubscribe from receiving more messages. This must be at no cost to the recipient and easily done. You have 10 days to make it effective.
  4. Make sure no part of your message is false or misleading, including your identity, subject line, web links, and text.

The new regulations define express and implied consent, but it is not really clear about the impact of relying on one or the other. Plus, there are exemptions. For example, there is an exemption for sending CEMs to persons at another organization, as long as the CEMs concern the activities of that other organization. There are several types of exemptions; if you are sending CEMs, look them up so you know what applies to your situation. Note that most exemptions apply to consent, and the other requirements listed above still apply.

Consent can be implied for email addresses that are “conspicuously published.” This includes business cards and websites, as long as:

  • The message relates to the recipient's role, functions, or duties in a business capacity
  • The recipient has not said they do not wish to receive marketing messages

What about your current contacts? You have until July 1st, 2017, to seek express consent from your mailing list – if you choose to do so. (It’s a business decision, not a mandate.) During this 3 year period, if you do not already have express consent, it is implied. A lot can happen in 3 years: your contacts will change, CASL will become better explained, and maybe your business situation will change, too.

If you engage in email marketing, you should know what you need to do to be compliant. It’s not just about those e-newsletters though – many sales and marketing activities are also regulated under CASL.

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