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How North American Anti-Spam Laws May Affect Regulatory Bodies.

Being able to effectively communicate with your membership is a necessity for regulatory bodies across the country. Staff and administration often have to communicate a wealth of information. From application feedback to renewal reminders and continuing education audit notifications, getting information to members quickly and reliably is critical. For many licensors, email is the tool of choice, though some are transitioning towards modern alternatives such as text/SMS messaging. However, the legality of communicating electronically is much more complicated than many believe. This is especially true for regulatory bodies whose messaging often covers a wide variety of messages, the exact nature of which will interact with anti-spam legislation differently depending on the purpose. That’s why we’re putting together a new guide to North American anti-spam laws and how they relate specifically to Colleges and other regulatory bodies across the country.

Anti-Spam Legislation: The Broad Strokes

In 2003, the 108th Congress enacted CAN-SPAM to regulate the distribution of commercial electronic messages in the United States. It established regulations for the distribution of Commercial Electronic Mail Messages, or CEMMs. It also set many precedents for legislating email, including certain exemptions based on purpose of the communication or existing relationships. Just over a decade later, Canada followed suit with the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, also known as CASL, in 2014. CASL is a much more comprehensive piece of legislation, covering not just emails, but all forms of commercial electronic communications, including SMS services. Despite the many differences between the two, their purpose is the same. Both govern how business and other organizations promote themselves to the general public. While CASL is primarily focused on protecting Canadians from unsolicited email advertising, it’s important to remember that regulatory bodies and professional associations are still subject to its provisions.

The Canadian Government is rolling out CASL in three phases. The majority of the legislation came into effect in 2014. In January of 2015, sections of the legislation relating to unauthorized or unwanted software installations also came into effect. CASL’s rollout will be complete later this year (2017) when the private right of action comes into force on July 1. The private right of action will allow individuals who have received unwanted CEMs to start legal proceedings against CASL violators themselves rather than making complaints indirectly through the CRTC. In simpler terms, victims of spam can now sue the offenders directly.

Anti-Spam Laws and Regulatory Authorities

Email has become such a ubiquitous means of everyday communication, we often don’t think deeply about the laws governing it. However, while emailing between coworkers and friends doesn’t require serious consideration, emailing members and business partners is a different story. To help regulatory authorities better ensure their communications programs are compliant with CASL and CAN-SPAM, we’ve developed a guide focusing specifically for them. Our new guide answers important questions including:

  • How does the legislation define commercial electronic messages?
  • When do you have consent to send CEMs to members?
  • What are the consequences of violating CASL?
  • Does CASL or CAN-SPAM make exceptions for regulatory authorities, and how far do they extend?
  • What are your obligations to members when it comes to communicating through electronic means?
  • Does your software allow for easy compliance with anti-spam legislation and communications management?

Understanding your legal obligations is essential to smooth communications with your members. However, the specific nature of many regulatory body communications leaves ambiguity about how to treat some messages. Is sending a text about your upcoming conference or annual general meeting considered a commercial message? What’s the best way to remind members about upcoming renewals? Getting answers specific to regulatory bodies’ needs can mean the difference between smooth, efficient workflows and long, tedious legal fights. With CASL’s private right to action section about to come into force, it will be more important than ever for regulatory authorities to protect themselves.