March 30, 2012, 12:26 PM

Canada gets serious about combating spam

E-mail marketers that don’t follow new rules can face penalties up to $10 million.

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The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission this week released its final regulations that detail how marketers can comply with that nation’s anti-spam act. The act, which passed into law in late 2010 and is expected to take effect later this year, requires a marketer to have received express consent from a recipient before it can send an electronic message, such as e-mail or text messages. It applies to all electronic messages sent to recipients in Canada, regardless of whether those messages originate in another country.

The Canadian act is more stringent than the U.S.’s CAN-SPAM act, which allows e-mail marketers to send unsolicited messages to consumers provided they include a way for recipients to opt-out of receiving future messages from the sender, such as through an “unsubscribe” link at the bottom of the e-mail.

The Canadian regulations say marketers can seek consent in writing or verbally. The published regulations do not detail how oral consent should be documented.

All commercial e-mail messages must include the name of the sender, a mailing address and at least one of the following: the e-mail address or web address of the sender, a phone number that connects a person to an agent or voice mail system.

The regulations also require commercial messages to include a “consumer-friendly” unsubscribe option. “The Commission expects that any unsubscribe mechanism should be accessed without difficulty or delay, and should be simple, quick, and easy for the consumer to use,” the regulations say.

The maximum monetary penalty per violation in Canadian dollars is $1 million (US$1 million) for an individual and $10 million (US$10 million) for business entities, like corporations or e-retailers. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission and the Competition Bureau, Canada’s independent law enforcement agency, are charged with enforcing the anti-spam law. Canada also is setting up a spam reporting center where consumers and organizations can file complaints about electronic spam. The Canadian government says the center will help identify spam trends and collect information on who is sending spam and from where. The collected information will be used to aid future prosecution and civil proceedings against spammers in Canada and internationally.

Alaa Hassan, vice president of, will share ideas on how to improve e-retailers’ e-mail marketing at the 2012 Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition in Chicago in June during a session titled “Fresh ideas for amping up your e-mail marketing.” The IRCE $200 early-bird discount expires March 31.


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