Spam. We all hate it: those e-mails offering ‘authentic’ designer watches or the best prices for pharmaceuticals. There should be a law about that! Well, there isn’t – in Canada, anyways. Some people may be surprised to learn that Canada has no anti-spam legislation. Yet. Last year we had an article about anti-spam legislation. So what happened? Unfortunately it died when Parliament was prorogued.

Enter Bill C-28 the Fighting Internet and Wireless Spam Act. (Pretty snappy title, eh?) If passed, this legislation would finally provide anti-spam legislation to bring us up to speed with other industrialized nations which have had it for years.

When we talk of spam, we think about pharmaceuticals, sex sites and cheap knockoffs. But spam is ANY message sent without prior explicit permission from the recipient. Even if you assume they would like to receive it. Did you buy a list? Doesn’t matter. If you didn’t get each recipient’s permission, it’s still spam.

What does Bill C-28 mean for your business or nonprofit?

There are two major components required for law-abiding e-mail marketing (and it also makes good marketing sense, too)

  1. The message itself must:
    • identify the sender
    • include contact information for the sender
    • have an easy unsubscribe or opt-out option
  2. The recipient must have consented to receiving your messages or you must have an existing business relationship with the recipient.

So, what does ‘an existing business relationship’ mean?

For businesses: You have conducted business within the past two years or they have been in touch with you (e.g. made an inquiry) in the past 6 months.

For nonprofits and charities: You have up to two years after: the last donation, the last time they volunteered or the date of their their membership expiry.

Bottom line: you can no longer send someone a promotional e-mail just because you have their e-mail address. That means no more sending out to the lists you bought, no more broadcast messages to fellow members of your chamber of commerce (unless you consent to receive them when you join) or scooping email addresses from a directory or prospect’s web site.

Be a responsible marketer. If you aren’t already complying with the proposed legislation, start now.

In the future, we’ll talk about how you can build your list without resorting to spam tactics.