Canada’s New Anti-Spam Laws and How They Will Affect You and Your Business

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again — the Internet is real life, which is why having an inbox packed with unsolicited emails is just as aggravating as dinnertime sales calls.

The Canadian government has heard the cries of many and taken action. Passed by Parliament in December of 2010 and expected to come into force July 1 of this year, Canada’s anti-spam legislation will have repercussions for you and your business.

Right now, it’s considered to be the toughest anti-spam/malware law in the world. Once enacted, you (with your hopefully spam-free inbox) will have to reconsider how your brand electronically contacts people.

Don’t worry, though — it doesn’t mean you can’t email your public. Just like clothing and lifestyle advice, it has to be solicited.

Here’s the gist.

What does the legislation apply to?

Any commercial electronic message, be it text, sound, voice or image. Unfortunately, it doesn’t apply to two-way voice communication (i.e., phone calls).

What is a “commercial electronic message?”

You can check the official definition here if you like, but a commercial electronic message is essentially any email or text that’s sole purpose is to persuade someone to take part in a commercial activity, whether it’s a sale, twitter follow or flash mob.

What does it mean for businesses?

If you’re a business that relies on emails to keep your public informed about sales and offers, you’ll need every person’s explicit permission to send them emails for a commercial purpose.

Also, you will have to specify precisely what will be on the emails you’re sending them. For instance, after July 1, you can’t simply say “Click here to sign up for updates and offers from Acme Roadrunner Extermination Supplies.” Your client must specify what email list to which she would like to be added (such as Events, Sales, News, etc.).

That may sound like a bit of a pain in the neck, but there are a couple of benefits — it offers you a chance to reconsider how you reach your public and the new or repeat signees are a considerably more engaged audience.

For an example of how legislation-compliant email signup can work, simply sign up for the new legislation’s updates at the Government of Canada’s site.

What does it mean for individuals?

Provided you don’t sign up for every mailing list possible, your inbox will be less cluttered, meaning less time deleting emails, meaning more time doing things you love, meaning the best life ever!

Of course, the law does have its detractors (like this article, which uses “draconian” and other such hyperbole typical of lobbyist articles). But those detractors are facing an uphill battle — because really, what Canadian likes spam?

Find out more

For the full rundown of the new legislation, check out the Government of Canada’s Fight Spam site.

Deliotte has an overview worth checking out, too.

The Toronto Star has a comprehensive history of the law, as well, if that is your sort of thing.

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