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What marketers need to know about Canada’s anti-spam bill

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Right now Canada is the only G8 country without anti-spam legislation in place. That’s about to change, though, because this month the Canadian government is expected to pass an anti-spam bill, called Bill C-28, which will usher in serious civil and criminal penalties for spammers and non-compliant e-mailers.

This is significant for honest e-mail marketers, too, said Dennis Dayman, chief privacy and deliverability officer at marketing automation provider Eloqua, because it will likely require some big changes to their sending practices. Below, Dayman provides a look at the things e-mail marketers need to know about C-28 and what the bill might mean to the b-to-b audience.

  • Spam becomes more than just e-mail. Under C-28’s latest definition, spam is any commercial message sent via e-mail, instant message, social media or mobile text messaging. This is important because marketers will need an explicit opt-in to send all of the above, at least if the intended recipient resides in Canada.
  • It’s similar to CAN-SPAM. American e-mail marketers who have best practices in place—such as including postal addresses in their messages—won’t have much work to do to make sure they are compliant. C-28 requires making contact information available, keeping it in force for at least 60 days and providing fast (10 days or fewer) unsubscribes.
  • Marketers must acquire an opt-in. While most ISPs and e-mail service providers frown on it, there’s nothing to stop American b-to-b marketers from doing the equivalent of an e-mail cold call—sending an unsolicited e-mail to a prospect. This will be illegal in Canada, Dayman said. “It used to be that you could e-mail until someone said to stop e-mailing them; not anymore,” he said. “There will be a grandfathering period; you’ll be able to e-mail them, but within two years you’ll need to get that opt-in.”
  • It’s not going to be as cumbersome as it might seem. “When you look at what happened in the U.S. with CAN-SPAM marketers said, ‘This is going to kill our business,’ but it didn’t,” Dayman said. “They met their requirements and put their postal addresses in, for instance, and now the way we run our e-mail program is cleaner.” The same thing will happen for those people who e-mail in and to Canada, he said. Still, marketers will have to be careful since penalties for ignoring or overlooking any of the components of the law are stiff. Individuals can be fined up to $1 million, while businesses can face up to $10 million in fines.
  • C-28 is just the beginning. Going into 2011, we can expect more e-mail and marketing-related legislation from other countries, he said. In fact, C-28 is only the latest move in what Dayman called the continuing legitimization of e-commerce. “In the past, countries typically did things on their own, making their own rules and putting them into place for their own countrymen,” he said. “But now you’re starting to see countries working together because the Internet can’t be contained in one country. It’s borderless.”
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