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Mind Your Messages – How Canada’s Anti-Spam Laws Could Cost Dealers

It may have just cost us $10,000,000 to send you this. You could at least read it…

Government Imposes Million $$$ Tax on Email Newsletters!

Your email marketing campaign could cost you $10,000,000!!!


We typically associate spam as email advertising for Viagra and hair loss remedies. Or long lost relatives bequeathing us millions of dollars. But as of Canada Day, your email marketing newsletter could also be considered spam.

The Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) takes effect on July 1st, 2014. For Canadian car dealers, it applies to all forms of digital communication, whether it be email messages, text messages, or tweets. If the message you’re sending will be read on a screen in Canada, the law applies. And it could cost you as much as $10,000,000 in fines if you don’t comply.

(Okay, so unless you’re the spammiest marketer around, you probably won’t be on the hook for ten million. But the fine could mean that you could lose out on bringing in a few new vehicles to your lot, or hiring on another mechanic for the year. Don’t mess around with this.)

For the most part, CASL just formalizes the best practices that most professional businesses have been following for some time. And it is pretty simple. You should be okay if you follow these three guidelines:

  •    Don’t send people things they didn’t ask for
  •    Tell them where to find you
  •    Give them a chance to change their minds and say no

1) Obtain Consent: Don’t send people things they didn’t ask for

Simply put, you must receive permission from the recipients of your messages before you’re allowed to communicate with them digitally—either their implicit or explicit consent.

Implicit Consent – If you do business with someone, the existence of a commercial transaction creates implicit consent, but for only up to two years. In other words, you can continue to contact your customers digitally for up to two years after you sold them or serviced their vehicle, but you have to have a mechanism in place to ensure you do not continue to spam them after that two-year window.

Explicit Consent – To get explicit consent from your prospects and customers, you have to get verbal or written permission to communicate digitally with them. In other words, they have to sign up. This can include checking a box to indicate they wish to receive an email newsletter, or typing their email address and clicking a ‘subscribe’ button. If you get explicit consent, there are no time limitations imposed. You can continue to message you customers until they tell you not to. The onus is on you, however, to keep a record of the consent.

2) Provide Identification Information: Tell them where to find you

This one is pretty simple: you need to include your mailing address in the communication. If the number of characters is limited—as with a text message, for instance—then a hyperlink to a webpage that contains this info will suffice.

3) Provide an Unsubscribe Mechanism: Give them a chance to change their minds and say no        

You have to provide an easy way for your customers to tell you that they no longer wish to receive your digital communications. In other words, you must offer an easy and obvious way to unsubscribe. This can be an unsubscribe link that takes them to a webpage where they can change their preferences, or something as simple as replying to a text message with the word ‘stop.’ The key to this one is not to get cute; if you make it difficult to unsubscribe, you’re breaking the rules.

Mind Your Messages

As with anything in life, too much of a good thing, ain’t. And email newsletters are no different. If you’re providing useful and original content to your customers and following these guidelines, you should be fine.

Now, while you’re here, why not apply today’s lesson and offer your explicit consent to continue receiving our wonderfully entertaining and informative newsletter by clicking on the ‘Subscribe’ link in the right margins of this page.

And if you would like us to manage your email newsletter, let us know today.

Recommended Reading

Check out these links for more information on Canadian anti-spam regulations:

Compliance and Enforcement Information Bulletin CRTC 2012-548

Compliance and Enforcement Information Bulletin CRTC 2012-549

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