The Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL – pronounced “Castle”) goes into effect today, July 1, 2014. If you are in Canada or send electronic communications (email, IMs, Twitter direct messages) to Canadians, you’ll need to comply.
What does this mean for IR departments? Most likely, not a heck of a lot – especially if you have a commercially managed IR website (like our IR Room). You are already following the US CAN-SPAM guidelines by default.
Your email / opt-in procedure should already include:
- The name of your organization and a description of the types of opt-in messages subscribers can expect to receive. For IR, this is your email alert opt-in system built within you IR site i.e. “I would like to receive a daily closing stock price.”
- A statement informing individuals that they may withdraw (opt-out) their consent i.e “You can unsubscribe at any time.”
- A functioning unsubscribe mechanism.
- The mailing address and one of either a phone number/web address/email address of your organization.
That said, why is CASL being called the toughest SPAM law on the planet?
The difference between the US spam laws and Canada’s is actually deceiving simple.
In the US, it is opt-out legislation: you can (more or less) email contacts without legal retribution as long as you do not continue to email them AFTER they have unsubscribed. A “beg forgiveness rather than ask permission” model.
CASL is the opposite. It’s opt-in legislation: you cannot (commercially) email anyone without their appropriate consent BEFORE you hit the send button.
A simple example: you recently presented at an investor conference and the host organization gave you a contact list of all attendees. Your earnings call is next week and you would like to invite this group to the listen to the call. You may email the US-based contacts. The recipients may personally view your email as junk and alert “the internet” you are spam and get your email domain blacklisted (which is a drag), but that’s about it. However, if there are Canadian firms on the contact list, without documented express permission to email them - they have a binding legal right to ruin your day.
If you commit a violation under any of sections 6 to 9 of CASL, then you can be slapped with a steep administrative monetary penalty (AMP). The maximum amount of an AMP, per violation, for an individual is $1 million, and for a business, $10 million. Directors, officers and agents of a corporation can be liable too.
Fortunately, there is a three-year transition period, until July 1, 2017, to help companies adopt these new regulations. If you have more questions about CASL, contact an REAL CASL attorney who is familiar with this issue.
Realistically, the lionshare of IR departments will not have any trouble with CASL, as the technical opt-in process does mirror US CAN-SPAM. The trouble-spots will be around bulk uploading and emailing to new contact lists. You will need to be thoughtful about emailing contacts (in mass) from a IR targeting program.
Overall, the communications behavior of IR departments created no issues with the US CAN-SPAM Act, so the same professional IR work patterns should apply with CASL.
Emerging Growth and small-cap companies need to be a very aware to what their IR firms are doing on their behalf (coughcoughstockpromotioncough). Liability will trickle to all involved.
Bottomline, just don’t send “blast emails” to non-opt-in Canadian contacts. Official FAQs here: http://www.crtc.gc.ca/eng/com500/faq500.htm
Have a great day.