Navigating Canada’s New Spam Law as a Service Company

A $10 million fine for spamming a single client? How about 100 fines of that magnitude? Not too many companies of any size could easily weather that. This is why Canada’s new anti-spam legislation (CASL) has got so many service company marketing wonks and administrators checking (and double-checking) the way they reach out to customers. If you’re a director or officer in a company, you could be personally liable.

Sounds scary? It is. The old wild west of Internet marketing is over, at least in this part of the world (and if you’re an American service company messaging clients in Canada – take note. You’re affected by this, too!).


Who is Affected by the New Spam Rules

For most companies, the concern here is inadvertently violating the new CASL rules that have been in effect since July. After all, most companies already do their best to operate above-board. Still, good intentions only get you so far. If you send commercial or other promotional information to customers and prospects email, SMS, social media or instant messaging platforms, this could affect you.


The Marketing Challenge for Service Companies vs. CASL’s Constraints

Service companies dealing with CASL are in a very understandable bind. Whether you’ve been handling your marketing internally or outsourcing, you’ve probably been sending out regular communications to touch base and keep customers engaged. Online marketing is bigger than eve. Many firms have built up large email lists of customers and prospects.

The good news? If you’ve already been following longstanding best practices when it comes to email marketing, you should be in the clear!


What You Need to Do

First, make sure you’ve got consent before you send a communication. That probably sounds like a Catch-22 – how can you get consent before you send a message?

The idea here is that you need either express consent or implied consent. You can get express consent orally or in writing – and if your contact has already given you that consent, it’s still valid. They can also opt in, so if you’ve got a “Sign up for our Newsletter” form on your website where folks put in their email address, it’s all good.

Implied consent is a bit weaker, but still applies. If you’ve already got an existing business or personal relationship (eg. your plumbing company paid a service call to the client’s unit), consent can be implied. However, implied consent only lasts 3 years. Be careful when you’re scraping your customer relationship management database for emails to add to your monthly email newsletter list. If they haven’t heard from you since you helped them six years ago, that consent is no good anymore.

There’s one other part of the law, though – and this is important. You have to give people an option to unsubscribe easily from your commercial messages.

Overall, the law just makes plain what was always there: customers really need to opt in if they’re interested and also be able to opt out anytime.

This might seem like a pain, since you worked so hard to get your email marketing list to the impressive size that it has reached. However look at it this way: if they actively decide to opt out – why keep sending them your information? It’s better to have a smaller, targeted 500-person list of true fans than a 5,000-person list of random people who don’t care about you.


How to Keep Getting Your Customers to Opt In to Your Marketing Mailings

If you’ve been in business for a while, you’ve probably heard this before: give them what they want. Entertaining, informative, useful content is what you need to keep people from clicking ‘unsubscribe’. It’s hard to break through the clutter, but quality content will get through. Service companies have a lot of information they can provide to help clients fix or maintain their property; don’t worry about giving away your secret sauce – they’ll still come to you when they need the experts for the big paid jobs. Just remember, after you’ve completed that successful service call, that’s the perfect time to ask if they want to be sent useful information and special promotions to keep you in mind for the next job.


Consult a Lawyer

Many law firms across the country are starting practices focused on helping businesses navigate the new legislation. We recommend consulting a lawyer to ensure you understand the law as mistakes can be costly.


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