July 1, 2014, a new anti-spam law went into effect in Canada. Whether you live in Canada or not, if you send business texts, private messages or emails to people that live in Canada, you’re affected. And the cost of noncompliance can be costly to both you and your company, so it’s important to be sure you understand the law and what you need to do.
Because this is such an important law for direct sellers to understand, I reached out to Ashley Good, Chief Legal Officer at Arbonne. Ashley was happy to share some information about this new law with all direct sellers, because she believes, as I do, that when we all get it right, it helps the industry as a whole. And that makes it easier for all of us to do business.
So here’s what you need to know about the new Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL). Keep in mind that this relates to certain digital communications (emails, private messages, texts) that are commercial in nature. Phone calls and electronic messages unrelated to a business purpose are not affected by this law. Please be sure to check with your own company or personal legal advisor for specific guidance they may provide to help you stay in compliance.
Consent to Send Business Communications
In Canada, you must have consent to send a business electronic communication, and this consent can come in one of several ways: express consent, implied consent or referral from an existing relationship. For implied consent, we’ll address those situations most common to direct selling.
Express Consent: If someone checks a box on your website or order form (or elsewhere) giving you permission to contact them, you may send them electronic communication. You may also get express verbal consent over the phone, and you should keep track of the day and time you got the consent. If it is ever questioned, the onus is on you to prove that you received consent, so keep good records! There is no time limit on express consent, until the time where they withdraw consent. This is the safest type of consent for the business person, because it is the easiest to prove. When in doubt, get Express Consent.
Previous Business Relationship (Implied Consent): If someone has purchased from you or joined the business with you in the previous 24 months (2 years) you have a previous business relationship, and may send a business electronic communication. If it has been longer than 2 years, you may no longer assume you have consent.
Request for Information (Implied Consent): If someone has requested business information, you may contact them for a period of 6 months. After that, you may no longer assume you have consent. So, for example, if someone has requested information about your business opportunity, you may follow up with them within a 6 month period. If they do not join within that period, you may no longer assume that you have consent to contact that person.
Referral: If you have received someone’s contact information via a person with whom you have an existing relationship and they also have an existing relationship (for example, your friend said HER friend might be interested in the opportunity), you may contact that person ONCE and let them know who referred you as part of the communication. If you do not hear back from that person, you may not contact them again.
Even if you have express or implied consent, or are sending a commercial electronic message to a referral, every such communication must contain certain information required by CASL. For example, if you are sending an email to the referral to the friend of a friend, you’ll need to identify yourself as the sender (including valid mailing address and either telephone number, email or web address), give the full name of the person who gave you the referral and include a clear “unsubscribe” option in your email.
So how does this affect your business?
There are a number of ways that this affects a direct sales business. For example, if you are a party plan seller and you typically have the hostess give you her contacts so that you can send the invite electronically, you will need to change this. Your hostess will need to contact her friends herself, either via text, evite, email, etc., or if you send the initial message, she will need to chase down those RSVPs for people who haven’t responded.
Direct sellers in Canada are also going to have to get more comfortable using the telephone for voice calls. In some cases, the only way you are going to get Express Consent to send messages is by getting verbal consent over the phone.
If you use Social Networks to market your business, you’re not exempt either. While you are allowed to post general messages about your business on social networks, you may not message people repeatedly using private messages. If someone is a referral, you may message them once. If they do not respond, you are not allowed to then contact them in a different way (such as text or email.) You can post things publicly to your network like “Private message me if you want more information.” If they do message you, you can private message them back. But you may not initiate the contact.
Your Newsletter list is also affected. You will need to go through your email contacts to see who has purchased from you within the last 2 years. If someone hasn’t purchased in a long time, this is an opportunity to reconnect. Give them a call (yes, on the phone) and ask if you still have permission to email them. Ashley notes that a good strategy is to offer something of personal value to your client besides the fact that you want to send an email (like a personal consultation, the fact that you have new products that go with what they’ve purchased in the past, remembering a special occasion or interest, etc.)
How Can Companies Prepare Their Salesforce?
Ashley notes that this is a great opportunity for companies to combine education on both anti-spam laws with training on best practices for business communications. At Arbonne, they’ve put training in the context of the day-to-day life of the consultants. If an Arbonne Independent Consultant wonders, “Today I want to email my newsletter/host a party/contact a prospect that was referred/sell to an existing client,” then she can watch, listen or read Arbonne training materials that outline how to do this both legally and effectively.
Approach the training positively, notes Ashley! It’s not about the burden of a new law. It’s an opportunity to build positively. The law is good for clients and consumers, to protect them from unwanted communication. It’s a good opportunity to reconnect personally with clients you haven’t spoken with in a while before blasting an email.
And find as many ways as possible to train, Ashley advises. People learn differently, and at Arbonne they provide compliance information such as this law in many different ways, including brief audio recordings, visual PPTs with audio, leadership training calls that point to resources, and very quick, one-page “do’s and don’t’s” fliers. By providing information in a variety of ways, the maximum number of consultants are reached, which makes it easier for Arbonne consultants to do business.
Many thanks to Ashley Good for providing such a great overview of this new legislation, and how it affects direct sellers. Be sure to check in with your company or personal legal advisor to find out the tools and training available to you as you reach out to your business contacts. Ashley also wanted me to be clear that the information in this article is meant to be a helpful general summary, but does not constitute legal advice or a complete summary of CASL. It is not intended to be a substitute for consultation with a lawyer regarding your own business practices. She also recommends that you view the Canadian Government’s website devoted to CASL at http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/home.
Have you gone through your business contacts yet? What are you doing to make sure your business is in compliance? Has your company provided training yet? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!
Ashley Good is responsible for all legal affairs at Arbonne, where she oversees the company’s Regulatory Department, Legal Department and Business Ethics Standards Team (Compliance). She also spends a significant amount of her time overseeing strategic projects for Arbonne, including the launch of the Arbonne Charitable Foundation, the improvement of Arbonne’s Preferred Client program, and initiatives to continually improve compensation for Arbonne’s Independent Consultants. In 2013, Ashley was named General Counsel of the Year – Private Company by the Orange County Business Journal. She also serves on the Board of the Arbonne Charitable Foundation and the Orange County Bar Association Charitable Fund, and as Corporate Secretary to Arbonne’s parent company, Natural Products Group, Inc. Before she was using her skills to help transform lives at Arbonne, she helped transform companies. Ashley began her career at the global law firm Latham & Watkins LLP, representing public and private companies in corporate finance, mergers and acquisitions, and general corporate matters. She holds a J.D. from Duke University School of Law and a Bachelor’s (Human Biology) and Master’s (Education) degree from Stanford University. Ashley loves that as a busy mom of two preschoolers, she can use Arbonne’s CC Creme, It’s a Long Story Mascara and the Hampton Color Collection to look perfectly presentable in 5 minutes flat.