CASL and You

If you subscribe to AHI’s Week in Heritage updates, you’ve likely noticed that we’ve switched from a standard email message sent from my account to Mail Chimp. There are a couple of reasons for the switch. First, Mail Chimp lets me track how many of you open the updates and which links you click. Kinda creepy, I know, but I’m hoping the results will help me tailor future updates to your interests. Maybe I’m the only geek who’s interested in philosophical tomes on the evolving role of heritage in contemporary society, while the rest of you are busy clicking on local news stories. 

Second, and more importantly, Mail Chimp’s features help ensure that AHI complies with the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) which comes into effect on July 1, 2014. Never heard of CASL? Well listen up. There are a few things you need to know. 

SPAM ... Not what you think

For most of us, spam refers to those annoying emails sent by “Nigerian millionaires” or retailers of performance enhancing drugs. But the Government of Canada takes a much broader view. CASL was developed to prevent businesses from sending you emails that you don’t want and didn’t ask for. It applies to all commercial electronic messages, or CEMs, which the federal government defines as “any message that encourages a recipient to engage in a commercial activity”. The message you sent last week promoting an upcoming workshop that will cost participants $20 to register? That’s a CEM. Your email advertising an upcoming special event with a $5 cover charge? That’s also a CEM. And the announcement of a sale at your museum’s giftshop, or the release of a new product? Yup, you guessed it. That’s a CEM to. Fundraising emails sent by registered charities are exempt. But any other email intended to encourage the recipient to pay your organization money for a product or service is classified as a CEM. 

So What?

As of July 1, 2014, if you’re sending a CEM, the law will require you to do three things. First, you’ll need to include the name of your organization and your mailing address in the message. Next, your message will need to include an unsubscribe mechanism. Finally, and this is the big one, you’ll need to have the consent of all recipients. Simply put, you will only be able to send CEMs to parties who have agreed to receive those kind of messages from your organization. Consent can be obtained either in writing or orally. In either case, the onus is on you to prove you’ve obtained consent to send the message. That will require some record keeping. And for all you smart asses who think you can send a message something along the lines of “if you don’t respond we’ll assume you’ve given your permission” ... forget it. The legislation expressly states that silence or inaction on the part of recipients cannot be construed as consent. Permission must be obtained through an opt-in mechanism, as opposed to opt-out.

Some good news ... sort of

There is some good news. While the legislation comes into effect on July 1, you’ll have three years to obtain consent, where required. In the meantime, you can continue to send CEMs to everyone on your existing mailing list. But - and it’s a big but - once CASL comes into effect, you won’t be permitted to send an email asking recipients to opt-onto your email list. That means you’ll need to get those emails out before July 1, 2014. And remember, you’ll need to keep a record of who consented, when and how. 

Does it Really Matter?

Absolutely. Under CASL, penalties for sending unsolicited messages are steep ... we're talking millions of dollars!  And fines can be applied to anyone who “directed, authorized, assented to, acquiesced in, or participated in the commission of the violation”. That potentially includes volunteers, staff, and board members. 

For detailed information about CASL head here.  

A big thanks to Sandy Newton with the Cupids Legacy Centre for calling my attention to this issue.