Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) refers to Canada’s laws and regulations on email correspondence. Contrary to its title, CASL focuses on more than just spam emails. In fact, most of its regulations are around Commercial Electronic Messages (CEMs). The regulations define a CEM as a message whose purpose is to encourage participation in a commercial activity. So sending an email blast reminding patrons to purchase tickets to an upcoming show would be considered a CEM. It’s likely that most emails you send out are considered CEMs. There are some exceptions for Registered Charities (if you are registered under the Canadian income tax system), so if you qualify for that, you may want to look into your allotted exemptions. However, it’s best to still avoid relying on exemptions and stick to some basic good practices.
Who is affected by it?
CASL affects anyone who sends messages to Canada. Even if your organization is in the US, if you have any Canadian patrons, you must comply with CASL when contacting them.
So what regulations are included in CASL?
The regulations start with that very first contact with a Canadian patron. You must have either expressed or implied consent in order to contact this patron. This basically means that you can not send unsolicited mail. Let’s break down those terms:
Expressed Consent means that the patron told you either verbally or in writing. Written consent is better than verbal, so we recommend having an email sign-up sheet at your box office that includes a signature. If a patron gives you verbal consent, be sure to send them an opt in email via the database. This will help give you written consent.
Implied Consent is a little trickier. Implied consent means that the patron has completed a transaction which qualifies as an existing business relationship. In addition, you have implied consent if the patron has made a donation or is a member.
The difference between the two types of consent is that Implied Consent is temporary. You can only contact that patron for two years after a purchase, donation, or expired membership. Of course if they purchase or donate again, the two year timer starts over. If you contact the patron after two years, you could be in violation of CASL regulations. However, Expressed Consent where the patron has given consent verbally or in writing is indefinite or until the patron tells you otherwise, either verbally or through the unsubscribe.
What should your organization include in each email to ensure compliance?
There are a few key items that must be included in each email to your Canadian patrons. Every email should contain the following items:
- Your organization’s name
- Your organization’s mailing address
- EITHER: phone number, email, OR website. Any combination of these is acceptable.
At least one of the contact options must remain available and active for 60 days from the time of the send. This allows for the recipient to contact you if needed during that period. In addition, emails must have an unsubscribe mechanism that covers the following situations:
- Recipients must be able to unsubscribe for 60 days after the email is sent
- The unsubscribe action must take effect within 10 days of request, hopefully faster
- No cost to the recipient to unsubscribe
Arts People’s email service supports all of the above requirements. Most third parties such as MailChimp and Constant Contact also support the above requirements. Keep in mind that you may need to speak to a CS rep who can help you to include a mailing address which is not currently in the default system message. Find out more information on System Messages by clicking here or speaking to your CS rep.
How else can your organization protect itself?
The best defense against CASL is to prove due diligence. We suggest that you have you own policy written and training for all staff, not just those responsible for sending out emails. In the event of a CASL complaint, you want to be able to show that you are actively trying to comply with the laws.
Final Tips and Tricks for Complying with CASL:
- Do use a sign-up sheet for emails to get written consent
- Do check that your contact information is up to date & included in your emails
- Do ensure your organization has its own written policy in place
- Do review emails to ensure compliance with your team before sending them out
- Don’t assume consent - always get written consent where possible
- Don’t contact patrons after the two year window has expired for implied consent
- Don’t contact a patron after they have opted out
Here at Arts People, we’re passionate about technology and the arts, but we’re not lawyers. If you have any questions about how to comply with CASL beyond these basics or questions about if you are in compliance now, you may want to contact a legal advisor for further information.