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North American Anti-Spam Laws: Descriptions and Differences

Countries around the globe are working tirelessly to enforce laws governing the legalities of email marketing. North American countries entered the era of anti-spam Law in December of 2003, when the United States implemented a set of laws known as the CAN-SPAM Act, which established the nation’s first national standards for the sending of commercial email. This act was later followed by Canada’s version of these laws known as the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) which first went into effect in July of 2014.

Marketers found in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act and CASL can be subject to penalties of up to thousands of dollars per email and CAN-SPAM Act violations can even lead to imprisonment in much more extreme cases. So, it’s very important to remember the local spam laws in your region, but also in the regions of your recipients. You will want to make sure you’re compliant when sending emails to any of your prospects and customers, no matter where they reside. Below I’ve given some of the main requirements needed to comply with both the United States CAN-SPAM Act and the Canadian Anti-Spam Laws as well as how to best incorporate these practices in your ClickDimensions emails.

CAN-SPAM Act (United States)

  • This law only applies only to promotional emails. Promotional emails under this law include messages that are intended to be an advertisement or that promote goods or services. This law does not apply to transactional emails that are sent to one individual recipient such as receipts, order confirmations, customer service inquiries and other messages of similar nature. An example of a transactional email within ClickDimensions would be an email send sent to one recipient confirming their order of a product. If you are unsure if your email is considered a transactional email or not, it is always best to err on the side of caution to avoid the hefty penalties associated with this law.
  • Avoid using misleading subject lines. The main idea here is to avoid saying one thing in your subject line, then have the email be about a completely different topic. The subject of the message should be very clear to the recipient right away.
  • Avoid misleading header information. This means that information such as the from name of your email, reply to address, and company name should all be accurate and not meant to cause confusion. The main rule here is don’t try to trick the recipient when it comes to who is sending the email.
  • Tell recipients where you’re located. This rule originally required a physical address for the company to be in every email, but in 2008 the law was modified to allow a P.O. Box as opposed to a physical address. Today, either a P.O. Box or physical address is allowed. When using ClickDimensions to email recipients within the United States, many of our customers choose to enter this information in the footer of their email near a link that allows recipients to globally unsubscribe or update subscription preferences, but it is not required to be in this location.
  • Provide a clear and simple opt-out. This rule is arguably the most important. The opt-out not only needs to be an option for your recipients, but it is also a requirement that it must function as intended. To abide by this rule, it is recommended (when sending to under 500 recipients) that you incorporate a link to a subscription management page or a global unsubscribe to allow recipients to opt-out. After adding the link to your email, you will want to send the email to yourself or colleagues first to test your unsubscribe or subscription management links to make sure they function properly before sending to customers. Keep in mind that an unsubscribe option is required for any emails that are to be sent to 500 recipients or more.
  • Honor opt-out requests promptly. Although the law defines promptly as honoring the opt-out request within 10 days, ClickDimensions doesn’t waste any time. When a recipient uses either our global unsubscribe or subscription management feature to opt-out, that opt-out request will instantly result in an unsubscribe record being created in CRM. That quick turnaround ensures there is no conflict with the law and that your marketing lists remain compliant. The unsubscribe record process is explained further here.
  • You must manage and monitor the sending of your emails. This rule was implemented to prevent companies from contracting their legal responsibilities. In other words, it is designed to hold all companies engaged in email marketing accountable for what they send.
  • Do not harvest emails from the web or use purchased lists. This rule is very simple to understand. Keep your lists clean, and do not use purchased lists. This not only helps you abide by the rules of the CAN-SPAM Act, but also with the ClickDimensions Terms of Service. Our terms of service go beyond many regulations and laws because they are designed to ensure that we can provide the best deliverability rates in the long-term. That is why ClickDimensions requires that all our customers adhere to permission-based marketing practices which means you must have permission from a recipient in order to send him/her an email. You can learn more about permission-based email marketing here.

While the United States CAN-SPAM Act was designed specifically to avoid deceptive marketing through emails and adapted later, the Canadian Anti-Spam Law was designed with a much broader scope. The idea of this law was to address a much wider-range of digital marketing practices from the start and focuses much more on consent. Our whitepaper here is on all things CASL and how it relates to ClickDimensions, but below are a few main requirements needed to comply with the Canadian Anti-Spam Law.

CASL (Canada)

  • Express or implied consent from all your recipients is required to send Commercial Electronic Messages (CEM).
    • Implied consent can be thought of as a working relationship with a contact. The law defines implied consent as a contact that has purchased from you in the past two years or made an inquiry within the last six months. After the specified time limits, the implied consent is no longer valid and express consent is required to continue sending CEMs. As a best practice, we recommend to specifically ask for express consent occasionally throughout the business relationship to avoid any potential penalties.
    • Express consent is a relationship where a recipient has given you explicit oral or written permission to send them CEMs. The safest method of express consent and permission is written. This is because if there is ever a dispute about the express consent, the responsibility is on the organization sending the email to prove express consent. To abide by this, it is suggested that you track how, when, why and manner of which this express consent was obtained. You can easily gain and track express consent from individuals by using ClickDimensions forms or subscription management. Forms can be used to have customers provide their contact information to sign up and receive your emails, like the example here. Subscription pages allow customers to decide which emails they do and don’t want to receive from an organization. In terms of tracking an individual’s consent further in CRM, many companies will create custom fields on contact/lead/account records to conveniently display the status of their CASL consent.
  • Clearly identify your organization and your location within the CEM. Like mentioned above in the CAN-SPAM point, this can be included in the email in a variety of ways like in the header or footer of the email’s design. You must include contact information for your company, including your address, phone, email, website address and other related information.
  • Provide an unsubscribe option. As with the CAN-SPAM Act, it is required that you incorporate a link to a subscription management page or a global unsubscribe to allow the recipient to opt-out of receiving future emails.

Please view the following links for more information on these laws and general best practices.

CAN-SPAM: https://www.ftc.gov/tips-advice/business-center/guidance/can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business

CASL: http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/home

2017-12-04T14:30:20+00:00 By |Email Marketing, Marketing|0 Comments

About the Author:

Tim Griffin is a ClickDimensions Marketing Success Manager.

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