E-mail: Northern Exposure
While Canada has introduced some of North America’s most stringent privacy legislation, the absence of a law equivalent to CAN-SPAM has led marketers to view Canada as a virtual wild west—an untamed territory where any e-mail marketing practice is acceptable. But a new anti-spam bill is about to change e-commerce for everyone marketing to Canadians. The Electronic Commerce Protection Act (ECPA), also known as Bill C-27, is expected to become law in late 2009 with implementation to follow in 2010. If you are going to tap into this market of net-savvy consumers—more than 85 percent of Canadians are on the Internet—you need to take action now. Overview of the Bill
The ECPA applies to any commercial message routed through a Canadian computer—a “commercial message” is one that’s content or hyperlinks include offers to sell, barter or lease goods and products, or promote a person who offers to sell things. Under the proposed law, marketers will need to be better prepared and actively adopt industry best practices—practices that, legislation aside, make for more effective e-mail marketing and higher response rates.
Following are the key changes resulting from the ECPA, how they differ from CAN-SPAM and steps U.S. marketers can take to comply with the anticipated Canadian regulations.
You need permission to e-mail prospects. This is the most significant difference between the Canadian bill and U.S. legislation. In the U.S., CAN-SPAM allows for marketing to anyone other than recipients who have unsubscribed from or opted out of an e-mail list. When marketing to Canadians, marketers will need either explicit (opt-in) or implied consent—“implied” meaning there is either:
- a business relationship—the recipient has purchased or leased a product, good or service from you, or has bartered or entered into a contract with you; or
- a nonbusiness relationship—the recipient has donated to, volunteered for or become a member of your organization.
You can e-mail anyone who has provided you with explicit consent, and if it’s implicit, you can send e-mail only for a period of 18 months after obtaining that consent. It’s advisable to use that 18-month timeline to make the consent explicit.