Canada’s Anti-Spam Law: Too Tough for Good Business?

A huge part of doing business and building a successful brand is reaching out to clients – both current and prospective. Whether it’s a promotional email, newsletter, Facebook message or phone call; companies big and small acknowledge the inestimable value of a well-cultivated contact list. But all too often, we end up on lists we never signed up for. We’re bombarded by commercial messaging, our email inboxes exploding with undesirable offers – our private time invaded by telemarketing pitches. Following the example of several other countries, Canada has developed new anti-spam legislation intended to crack down on unsolicited electronic promotion. Tough and somewhat convoluted, the policy comes into effect on July 1. We’ll look at how it will impact the travel and tourism industry, how businesses connect with consumers, and how contact data is exploited.

The new rules of engagement

The objective of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), is to promote “economic efficiency” by broadly limiting unsolicited electronic promotions. And what precisely does that include? Any type of promotional messaging that encourages participation in a commercial activity. And messaging means anything from phone calls and texts to tweets and emails. This type of marketing will only be legal if the sender has recipient consent. It’s the kiss of death for unsolicited mass-mailing campaigns that target yet-to-be clients, or the routine sharing of data with third party professionals. And defiance will come at a high cost – up to $10,000,000 for corporate offenders.

What hospitality professionals need to know

Students in hospitality management school are taught the importance of commercial marketing to build and sustain a business. Travel agents in particular rely heavily on commercial electronic messaging.  But in order to comply with the new CASL rules, these professionals will need to remember a host of dos and don’ts, including:

  • Providing an opt-out check box on the ballot-type sheets collected at trade shows and conferences
  • Obtaining consent for any tweets, emails, LinkedIn messages or newsletters sent to clients
  • Informing clients of any online booking software that collects and stores their data (and obtaining consent for this practice)
  • Obtaining permission before sharing contact lists with a third party, be it a travel insurance broker or another home-based travel agent

Solutions for ensuring compliance

Experts are suggesting that businesses begin vetting their contact lists now. Companies may need to hire a CASL compliance specialist to make sure everything is in order and accounted for before the law (and its hefty penalties) comes into effect this summer. Travel agencies, hotel and resort management, event planners – all must ensure that consent is obtained and well documented in case of an investigation. And small, home-based start ups are no exception. Companies of all sizes must comply with CASL – and maintain the records they need to prove it.

Do you think Canada’s anti-spam law is too restrictive, or is it necessary to curb the growing problem of “junk” mail?

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