Hate Receiving Spam?

Clare Peacock Product

Everyone hates receiving spam

Too often it taunts our insecurities, suggesting some outrageous path to a happier life. If only we could buy that Italian villa, or peel layers off our wrinkled skin, or wake up with chiseled abs – then we would be truly happy.

Prior to this summer, Canadian inboxes were an easy target for such spam. Most of our electronic spam came from countries where anti-spam legislation prohibits this messaging. Those international spam scoundrels found Canuck inboxes to be the most accessible in the world.

Until July 1, 2014.

The price of protecting the Canadian ego inbox

Canada’s Anti Spam Legislation (CASL) came to fruition this summer. The new electronic messaging regulations have the goal to deter the most damaging and deceptive forms of electronic spam from Canadian email addresses.

CASL is the broadest legislation of its kind anywhere in the world. In order to tackle ‘get-your-Botox-here’ junk mail, CASL’s extensive language has left Canadian organizations with complex legislation to understand and consequently navigate. The federal government has inadvertently created a barrier to legitimate organizations and businesses communicating with those who want to hear from them.

Now what?

Over four months later, the dust has largely settled. At Thoughtexchange we’ve worked with our lawyers to understand how our emails comply with the legislation, and allow our customers to continue to engage their stakeholders. Here’s how we’ve interpreted the legislation and integrated it with our business practices.

It begins with taking a deep breath, and realizing that the complaint-based regulations’ goal is not to hassle Canadian organizations but rather to target egregious spammers, primarily outside of Canada.

Here’s why…

No one is sellin’ and no one is buyin’

CASL regulations ONLY apply to emails that are considered to be Commercial Electronic Messages (CEMs).

A CEM encourages participation in a commercial activity. Only if an organization is pushing a product or service, and doing any advertising or promoting within their email, do CASL regulations apply.

Most Thoughtexchange processes aren’t about commercial products or services. When a public school district engages with parents on education, or a member organization engages their members around relevant issues, the processes do not send CEMs.

In these cases, CASL regulations do not apply.

We know you and you know us

It is possible that a Thoughtexchange process could be of a commercial nature. The process could be related to a commercial product or service provided by one of our customers. For example, a School District may host a bake sale and send a Thoughtexchange process email that promotes that bake sale.

These processes would result in emails that are CEMs… but don’t panic.

Organizations have the right to send these messages to those they have an existing relationship with, provided the relationship has been active within the past two years. These relationships could be parents to a School District, members to their association, or customers who have purchased a product or service from a business.

If the CEM is relevant to the organization’s business, role or function, it may be sent with the following minimum requirements:

1. The message must include the senders name and snail mail address
2. An unsubscribe mechanism must be visible

If the message meets these two criteria, the CEM may be sent to pre-existing business contacts of the sender.

Just ask

But say your Thoughtexchange process will engage a broad community you don’t have a direct relationship with. Or say you want to send a message that explains your commercial product in order to gather feedback…

This isn’t our typical Thoughtexchange process but it is entirely possible. The key is to gain explicit or implied consent.

Explicit Consent – An example of explicit consent is someone filling in a form on your website where text explains that by providing their email address they are agreeing to be contacted. The recipients have then been explicitly told they will receive messages.

Implied Consent – Consent is implied if you were provided email addresses of individuals who knew they could be contacted by your organization. Emails on a sign up sheet, or addresses provided on business cards are both examples of implied consent.

With Thoughtexchange, explicit consent can be gained by using the “self register” option. A link can be published via websites or posters, leading your participants to a web page that asks for their email address in order to participate. If they provide their email address they are consenting to be contacted in your process.

CEMs may be sent to any consenting person’s email address.

Playing defence

So your CEM went to an individual that has no pre-existing relationship with you, and you did not gain their consent prior to pushing send?

CASL runs on a complaint-based system. It aims for voluntary compliance and only penalizes severe perpetrators. The recipient of your CEM must complain to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), and the CRTC must prioritize your mistake for follow-up.

It is highly unlikely the CRTC will view messaging from a community organization such as a School District or small business as a priority for a major enforcement response.

How we help

It goes without saying – but we’ll say it here anyways – we never contact your participants outside of your approved process messages. Our subscription agreement prevents this. We also have extensive security measures to ensure your email lists remain safe and private.

With Thoughtexchange facilitating your process, we will always consider CASL. We’ll work with you to determine if your messages are CEMs and in the unusual case that they are, we’ll work with you to make sure your Thoughtexchange emails meet all CASL requirements.

We’ve got your back! While working with Thoughtexchange you can always call our support line and ask for more detailed documentation available on CASL.

To your (inbox) health!

Electronic messages have become fundamental to organizing our professional and personal lives. Our ability to deny access to any unwarranted email traffic is important, and we applaud the Canadian Federal government’s efforts to provide us control over the messages that regularly reach us.

CASL doesn’t target community organizations working to create stakeholder buy-in and build community consensus. Nor does it target small local businesses trying to grow with responsible email marketing. CASL is intended to go after egregious spammers inside and primarily outside of Canada and the sheer volume of irrelevant and infuriating messages they send.

Email spam is infuriating, but navigating CASL should not be.

We hope this helps alleviate any worries about CASL’s impact on our business, and yours.

This is a light-hearted opinion piece, written with the express purpose of defusing the tension we see from our customers around this issue. Please know we do take CASL seriously. We’ve written more on CASL here and you can visit the CRTC website here.

About the Author

Clare Peacock

Clare is a motivated public consultation professional, working to increase collaboration amongst community members. She is a constant advocate for positive and effective communication, using her background in Aboriginal engagement and environmental leadership to implement meaningful consultation plans. Clare lives in Revelstoke, BC where she spends her free time exploring the surrounding mountains.

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