Email Marketing: Startups and Canadian Law
*Big Disclaimer: I am not a lawyer, I have no legal training, and nothing in this blog post should be taken as legal advice. Consult a lawyer for legal advice. *
I hate getting email spam from big companies, but at least they follow the law: they offer unsubscribe buttons and they have some [loosely defined] pre-existing relationship with me. In my experience startups frequently disregard anti-spam laws and miss even these basic steps. I don’t know if it’s out of ignorance, laziness, or a thirst for sales, but I do know it’s abusing peoples trust, unprofessional, and degrading for your brand and image. (It may also violate Bill C-28, ask a lawyer.)
The government’s Task Force on Spam issued a handy guide, which you can read in full here, but the summary is basically:
Only send emails to people who have explicitly consented to receiving such material.
You have to provide an “obvious, clear and efficient email or web-based means” to opt out.
The internal process used to obtain consent should be clear and transparent.
Keep records of the type of consent obtained.
Don’t be misleading in who the sender is or the title of the email.
Longer Rant about Startups…
We all loath the countless marketing emails and newsletters that we get from our internet provider, cell phone company, and charities we support. These large organizations and companies push the boundaries of anti-spam law, but they pay very expensive lawyers to make sure they stay within the bounds. Most notably, they consistently offer unsubscribe buttons and they only email people they have some business relationship with. It makes the emails at least bearable.
Startups are a different story, if you’ve attended any networking events with startups you’ve almost certainly experienced this: you meet many nice and interesting people and exchange business cards with all sorts of people. Then days, weeks, or even months later you find yourself on their mailing list, getting emails about their product launches and events that you have no interest in. It’s abusing peoples trust, unprofessional, and degrading to your brand and image. (It may also violate Bill C-28 ask a lawyer.)
Startups are hungry for sales, have no shame, and can’t afford to have a legal and marketing department dissect “Bill C-28: Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation” – http://www.ic.gc.ca/eic/site/ecic-ceac.nsf/eng/h_gv00567.html but ignorance of the law is no excuse, and with the simplified guides available there’s no reason to at least follow some common sense rules.
Quick Guide & Best Practices for email marketing