Adhering to Canada’s anti-spam legislation means more than obtaining consent from recipients. Your commercial electronic messages (CEMs) — digital communications such as emails and e-newsletters — must follow strict rules as well.

> An option to unsubscribe
Your CEM must include a statement that the recipient can withdraw his or her consent to receive these messages at any time.

If you send CEMs using an email marketing service provider, this feature is most likely taken care of for you, says Robert Burko, president of Elite Email in Toronto.

“All of the reputable [email marketing service providers] will have an ‘unsubscribe’ link that is mandatory and can’t be turned off,” Burko says.

If the recipient wishes to receive no more such messages, he or she would click the “unsubscribe” button on the email and would automatically be taken off your mailing list — without any action on your part.

If you are sending a CEM through your regular corporate email account, you must still provide the reminder that the recipient has the option of not receiving these messages. For example, you can state: “To remove yourself from this mailing list, please reply with the subject line ‘unsubscribe’.”

Should someone take that action, the legislation states, you have 10 days in which to take that person off of your electronic mailing list, says Javed Khan, president of EMpression: A Marketing Services Co. in Aurora, Ont.

When you receive these withdrawals of consent, it is imperative that you and your entire team are aware that those individuals do not want future CEMs from you. Create a record of these individuals through your client relationship management system, Burko says, and ensure that team members check this record before sending out any CEMs.

> Clear sender information
Every message should include your full name, your firm’s name and two ways to get in touch with you. One of those ways must be a physical mailing address. A post office box is a valid mailing address under CASL.

The law also requires that this contact information be valid for 60 days following the distribution of the CEM.

> A permission reminder
Some situations will require that you include a statement regarding the way you received permission to send the CEM.

One example is when you receive a referral. If you choose to contact the person being referred in an electronic manner, you can send one CEM, as long as you inform him or her that the message is the result of a referral. You must also include the full name of the person who provided the referral.

You must also provide a permission reminder if you have received a recipient’s contact information as part of a mailing list from third party, says Wendy Mee, an associate at Blake, Cassels & Graydon LLP. This is relevant if you have purchased an organization’s contact list, such as one from a local chamber of commerce.

If the list provider has express consent stating that CEMs can be sent to its contacts from third-party partners (you), you may contact the individuals on that list. The condition is that you must clearly state how you received that person’s contact information and which organization or individual provided it, Mee says.

However, if that list provider has not received this consent and you are sending CEMs to individuals on that list, you are contravening CASL and can be held accountable.

Save yourself the trouble, Khan says, and avoid these lists. Professionals who use them, whether they are compliant or not, are often perceived as spammers.

This is the third instalment in a five-part series on Canada’s anti-spam legislation.

Next: Adhering to CASL in real-life situations.