Event Marketing: Canada Ready to Get Tough on Email Spam

No SpamEven for small businesses and independent event planners, email and Internet marketing are accessible, affordable and easy to implement. Unfortunately, due to these advantages, spam has become a global problem.

Until recently, Canada has been the only G8 nation without anti-spam legislation. The absence of this legislation has earned Canada the title of "email spam capital of the world." Canada is in the process of taking steps to change this. Event marketing in Canada will soon involve a lot more red tape and expense.

New legislation with a Canadian spin has been enacted and regulations are in the process of being approved. This will be a major game changer for event planning firms, meeting planners, hotels, event venues and even associations that want to continue to use email and social media to market their services and programs.

Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)

Bill C-28, Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation, was passed on December 15, 2010. This legislation covers unsolicited promotional email as well as other forms of spam including identity theft, phishing and spyware.

Key CASL provisions include:

  • Banning commercial electronic messages without the recipient's consent. This includes messages to social networking accounts and text messages sent to mobile devices.
  • Prohibition of email harvesting through computer programs.
  • A 3-year transitional period after the regulations come into effect in which businesses can still communicate with existing clients (during that time, companies must obtain a permission form existing clients in order to continue communication via email).

Administrative monetary penalties (AMPs) will be hefty:

  • Maximum AMP for individuals will be $1 million per violation.
  • Maximum AMP for businesses and corporations has been set at $10 million per violation.

Current Status

Draft regulations have been formulated and submissions were accepted from July 9 - September 7, 2011 are under review. Once the submissions have been reviewed, the regulations will be revised and the final regulations will be posted. Bids for providers to operate the Spam Reporting Centres were accepted until January 3, 2012. When the provider or providers have been selected, they will set up the Spam Reporting Centres and enforcement will begin. There will be a phase-in period to give businesses an opportunity to implement systems and ensure compliance.

Background: Can-Spam (USA)

There is much to be learned from the experiences of American event and conference planners. In 2003, the US Congress enacted the Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing (CAN-SPAM) Act. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) formulated Can-Spam rules and guidelines including:

  • Banning of unsolicited commercial email to promote products and services.
  • A ban on unsolicited promotional text messages using Internet address with domain. names to mobile devices.
  • Requirement that all promotional messages include:
    1. a physical email address or a registered company post office box
    2. instructions for opting out

There is a penalty of up to $16,000 for each email or message that is not in compliance with Can- Spam.

Best Practices

Although Canadian regulations are not in place yet, from the experience of U.S. event industry organizations, there are a number of best practices that companies can put in place.

  1. Begin to cleanse company databases and obtain permission from existing contact to continue sending updates and promotional offers.
  2. Automate the permission forms and the process of sending out emails through an online service provider which has a double opt-in process as well as an opt out process (e.g. MailChimp, iContact, InfusionSoft, Aweber)
  3. Modify online RFP and email contact forms so that, in the process of requesting information or proposals, companies can double opt-in for future communication and updates.
  4. Include instructions for opting out.
  5. Professional associations should also ensure that permission for communication and email promotion is integrated into the membership application and renewal processes.
  6. Explore the feasibility of using the Cvent Supplier Network to automate the important process of receiving RFPs from prospective clients and create the equivalent of an electronic paper trail to document that the request originated with the client.

Photo Credit: laurelrusswurm

For a copy of the legislation, updates and access to the regulations when they are finalized, visit the Canadian Government's official portal: fightspam.gc.ca

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