As you probably already know, Canada’s new anti-spam law took effect on July 1, 2014. As a business owner operating a company in Canada, it is your responsibility to acknowledge, accept, understand and comply with the new law. Don’t take the ignorant and negligent backseat on this one. The repercussions of your non-compliant actions simply won’t be worth it.

Here’s an overview to get you started on the right foot.

What’s the purpose?

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is now in place. It protects Canadians, but at the same time, ensures that businesses can still compete in the global market place.

What exactly is Canada’s anti-spam law?

CASL dictates that you cannot send a “commercial electronic message” (CEM) if you don’t have at least implied consent from your recipient. A CEM is an email, SMS text message or instant message that encourages recipients to participate in a commercial activity, which could be an offering, advertisement, product promotion, person or service.

What is implied consent and what is expressed consent?

For now, you can send a CEM to all recipients who have implied consent. But, as part of CASL, you must obtain expressed consent from your recipients within the next 36 months.

Implied consent is when you have a relationship with your recipient but he or she has not explicitly asked to receive your emails (i.e. they purchased something from you, they downloaded a free trial of your service online, they gave you a business card at a tradeshow, etc.).

Expressed consent is when your recipient specifically asks to receive your emails or messages (i.e. they filled out a form on your website that clearly states they’ll receive email marketing messages from you, they clicked on a link in a validation email you sent them to confirm their subscription, they checked an unchecked box on the purchase page when they bought a product from you, etc.).

Can I use the list I’ve worked so hard to build over the last few years?

Yes! You can continue to send CEMs to your existing list as long as you have at least implied consent from them. Over the next 36-month transition period, you can continue to send emails and other messages as long as your recipients haven’t told you to stop. But don’t forget, you need to work on getting expressed consent from everyone in the meantime.

Does CASL apply to my blog and social media pages?

No. CASL applies only to emails, text messages, instant messages and other similar messages that are sent directly to electronic addresses.

What if I’m already using email marketing best practices?

Well, then you’re ahead of the game! Continue doing what you’re doing and just make sure you have proper expressed consent measures in place so that in 36 months, you’re still ahead of the game and not trying to play catch up.

Lots of business owners have become defensive and judgmental about the legislation only to realize that they’re already doing a lot of what the legislation asks for. Evaluate and compare current processes versus CASL requirements – you may just be surprised at how little you have to change in order to comply.

How will the new law be enforced?

CASL is governed by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC). All legitimate complaints about unsolicited messages will be investigated by the CRTC to determine whether or not they are in violation of CASL. Penalties are not automatic and rather the CRTC judges each case individually according to a number of factors. However, penalties for serious violations can reach up to $1 million for individuals and up to $10 million for businesses.

In other words, it’s not worth it to try and sidestep the system.

I think I need help determining how to comply with CASL in my business.

Then definitely get it! Speak to your lawyer about your current practices, future plans and exactly what needs to be done to make sure you continue to market your business but in a way that complies with CASL.