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Anti-Spam Legislation

The Canadian Anti-Spam Law has been in effect for a number of years. This federal law applies to any organization that does business in Canada and uses email, texts, social media messages or other forms of electronic communication.

While some exemptions were made for registered charitable organizations, this law will apply to all non-profit organizations. It is important for all sport organizations to ensure their communications comply with Canadian Anti-Spam Law.

The information that follows is an overview compiled from Imagine Canada and other sources of some key points intended to help you get started and not as official legal advice for your organization. Please visit regulatory sites for complete and ongoing information and if you have specific questions related to your organization, you should seek professional advice.

About Canada’s Anti-Spam law

The law does not prohibit you from sending electronic communications, but in order to send any Commercial Electronic Messages as of July 1, 2014 you must meet these three (3) requirements:

  • Consent: You must have express or implied consent to send a message.
  • Identification: You must clearly identify yourself and anyone on whose behalf the message is sent by including information such as name, organization, address, phone number and email.
  • Unsubscribe mechanism: In every message you send, you must provide a way for recipients to unsubscribe from receiving messages from you in the future. You should maintain a system to track responses that you receive regarding express and implied consents, as well as unsubscribe requests and the dates they were done, and keep your communications system and records up to date.

What is a commercial electronic message?

Any electronic messages (includes a range of activities including any email, text, instant message, tweet or any other electronic message) that as part of its purpose encourages the recipient to participate in a “commercial activity.” Even if there is no profit, it still counts as commercial activity. Commercial activity does not include:

  • Surveys, polling, newsletters and messages soliciting charitable donations, political contributions, or other political activities that do not encourage participation in a commercial activity
  • Pre-existing commercial relationships or activities which provides additional information, clarification, or completes a transaction involving a commercial activity already underway
  • Messages to those the sender has a close personal or family relationship with
  • Messages sent from one business to another business about business matters concerning the other business

What does “implied or express consent” mean?

Express consent is when an individual gives you permission to send them any type of message, including commercial electronic messages. Implied consent assumes permission based on an existing relationship between an individual and your organization. This can include instances where an individual has:

  • Donated to you in the last two years (either cash or in-kind contributions)
  • Volunteered for you in the last two years
  • Been a member of your organization in the last two years
  • Entered into a contract with your organization in the last two years
  • Purchased a good or service from you in the last two years
  • Made an inquiry about your commercial offerings in the last six months

It is important to note that a message asking for consent is itself a commercial electronic message. If you send such a commercial electronic message and do not receive a response, you may no longer send commercial electronic messages to that email address, as of July 1, 2014.

What kind of “unsubscribe mechanism” do I need?

What kind of “Unsubscribe Mechanism” do I need to provide? The unsubscribe option is key to establishing due diligence and responding to any complaints made against you. A key aspect is that an unsubscribe mechanism must be “readily performed” and it should be simple, quick and easy for the end-user. For examples of acceptable unsubscribe mechanisms under Canadian Anti-Spam Law, please see Compliance and Enforcement Information Bulletin CRTC 2012-548. It does not have to be a technically advanced option. Asking people to reply to your message with the word “unsubscribe” is sufficient to comply. However, many e-newsletter services, such as Mailchimp or Constant Contact, include unsubscribe options in the body of their emails. The important step is to get familiar with the requirements as they relate to your organization, and get started by doing an inventory of your communications and contacts, and ask them for consent.