Did you say please?

Pending legislation will align Canada’s anti-spam laws with the rest of the developed world. you need to be aware of it.

Perhaps it is because of the current economic climate, but I have noticed a significant increase in unsolicited e-mail newsletters in my in box lately. These are e-newsletters from what I would have considered to be reputable businesses. In some cases I know the sender. Yet despite the source or intent, all of these messages are spam, just like those offers of a diploma, ‘quality’ watch or a better sex life.

The bottom line is that e-mail marketing requires the permission of the recipient. Period.

Canada’s Bill C-27, the Electronic Commerce Protection Act, hass modeled its anti-spam regulations on the United States’  CAN-SPAM Act (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography And Marketing). It has become a de facto international standard for anti-spam compliance. In short, it requires permission of the recipient in one of the following ways:

  1. An e-mail newsletter subscribe form on your web site.
  2. An opt-in checkbox on a form. This checkbox must not be checked by default, the person completing the form must willingly select the checkbox to indicate they want to hear from you.
  3. If someone completes an offline form like a survey or enters a competition, you can only contact them if it was explained to them that they would be contacted by e-mail AND they ticked a box indicating they would like to be contacted.
  4. Customers who have a business relationship (made a purchase or contribution) within the last 18 months.
  5. If someone gives you their business card and you have explicitly asked for permission to add them to your list, you can contact them. If they dropped their business card in a ‘fish bowl’ at a trade show, there must be a sign indicating they will be contacted by e-mail about that specific topic.

You will notice that harvesting directories or membership lists is not there, nor is it acceptable to take e-mail addresses off of web sites or purchase third party lists. Did you get their permission yourself? I thought not.

While we’re on the topic of e-mail marketing, there are three things your e-mail—which you are sending with permission—must include in order to comply with CAN-SPAM:

  1. A single-click unsubscribe link that instantly removes the subscriber from your list. Once they unsubscribe, you can never e-mail them again.
  2. The name and physical address of the sender.
  3. All e-mails must state the reason the recipient is receiving the message. For example, “You are receiving this message from ABC Company because you signed up for our e-mail list at www.abc.com.”

E-mail marketing does not use the same rules as direct mail. With printed correspondence the recipient has the option of opening the envelope. When it’s in your electronic inbox, you don’t have the same choice.

And when you ask, remember your manners and say “Please”.

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