If you have an email address in Canada, chances are you’ve heard about the new anti-spam legislation.  Bill C-28 was given royal assent (meaning it was approved by a representative of the sovereign) back in 2010 and, more and more, we’re hearing concerns about the impact this will have on the way Canadian businesses electronically contact their customers.

This piece of legislation is designed to significantly restrict the use of electronic messages to carry out commercial activities.  The goal is to create a more secure online environment for users and minimize the spread of those “lose-weight-fast-win-five-million-dollars” emails that pop up in our inboxes.

Many individuals are deeply concerned that the new law will prevent them from delivering any electronic communications at all.  Canada’s anti-spam legislation may be one of the most stringent acts of its kind in the world, but its goal is to protect the recipient, not punish the sender.  The law only applies to electronic messages sent for “commercial” purposes. One key best-practice can help you keep within the boundaries of Bill C-28 – ask for consent.

If your business sends out emails to your customers, make sure you’ve OK’d it with those on your email list first. Include ‘subscribe’ and ‘unsubscribe’ options.  If you have an email address on file for your customer, you should have a section to indicate whether or not this person wants to receive regular email updates from your business. When in doubt, just ask!

What about social media? Many businesses these days have a Facebook and/or Twitter account where you send out regular updates.  By ‘liking’ your Facebook page, or ‘following’ you on Twitter, the user has given their consent to receiving electronic updates from your business.  If they no longer wish to receive updates from you, they can ‘unlike’, ‘unfollow‘, or adjust their settings.

Technology changes quickly and the Canadian government is striving to keep the law up to date.  Read up on Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation to make sure your business is staying within the law.

Recommended reads:

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation: http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/home

  • Read how the law impacts you as an individual, business or organization. From the Government of Canada.

Michael Geist, Law Professor, University of Ottawa: http://www.michaelgeist.ca/

  • Blog from law professor at the University of Ottawa and Research Chair in Internet and E-commerce Law.