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Spam Law Prompts Wineries to Act

Canadian companies move to comply with email legislation

by Andrew Adams
Source: Government of Canada

San Rafael, Calif.—Canadian wineries and other business across the nation have been emailing their customers in the hopes they will “opt-in” to continue to receive emails about special offers, events and new products.

The flurry of emails is the result of a new anti-spam law that will go into effect July 1, which is also the national holiday Canada Day. The law stipulates that companies must secure permission from consumers prior to sending them emails. While U.S. anti-spam law is based on an “opt-out” premise that puts the onus on consumers to notify companies if they don’t want to receive marketing materials, the Canadian law is more stringent in that it requires companies to ask permission first.

Hoping consumers ‘opt-in’
Ironically, the new anti-spam law has resulted in email boxes getting filled up with notices from companies seeking to hold on to those populating their email lists.

When Wines & Vines reached Sandra Oldfied, the president and CEO of Tinhorn Creek Vineyards in Oliver, B.C., last week, she mentioned she had gone through about a dozen such emails herself.

Oldfied said the winery had sent out its own opt-in email, but she wasn’t too worried that the new law would interfere with the winery’s growing direct-to-consumer sales. “I’m not any more concerned about it than anyone else in Canada,” she said. “Whatever ends up happening, you find the new dynamic of working with it.…I just know that it’s kind of one of those things when everyone has to do it at the same time, everyone adjusts to the new normal after that.”

Canada’s anti-spam legislation (or CASL) also applies to text messages and software (such as spyware and malware) sent via spam emails. The law will be enforced with fines from $1 million to $10 million (all prices Canadian) after a 36-month transition period. Electronic messages need to clearly identify the sender and include the sender’s contact information as well as have an unsubscribe function.

While enforcement is expected to focus on Canadian companies, the law does extend to any information or message that is accessed in Canada. An article in the American Bar Association’s web-based journal Business Law Today described the CASL as “the toughest anti-spam law in the world,” and one with “considerable extra-territorial reach.”

Attorney Andrew Aguilar co-authored a guidebook about what companies need to do to comply with the law. He told CTV News that the law will likely stop Canadian companies but not stem the flow of spam from outside of the country. “It’s not likely going to stop a lot of people who are sending these messages from other countries, where they either don’t know or don’t really care if it’s illegal here.”

Canada is the second-largest foreign market for U.S. wines after the European Union. Total exports to Canada in 2013 reached $617 million, which was 31% more than the previous year, according to San Francisco, Calif.-based Wine Institute

Just use best practices
Leeann Froese is co-owner of the public relations and communications firm Town Hall Communications. She represents several wineries in British Columbia and said the key to compliance is ensuring that everyone on an email list has given a company their “express” consent.

If a winery is collecting contact information in its tasting room, for example, Froese said they would need to make it clear that the information will be used by the winery to send out marketing materials.

Froese said the new law isn’t that much of a burden for companies that already are employing the best practices of targeted marketing. “I wouldn’t say burdensome as in it’s impeding our ability to do business, because we were already doing business this way,” she said.

Some of her clients, such as Okanagan Crush Pad Winery in Summerland, B.C., sent out notification emails just to be absolutely certain they had the express consent of everyone on their email lists. Froese said taking such a step to make sure the people who receive your marketing e-mails want them is really just the best way to communicate with consumers. “Nobody wants to spam anyone on purpose,” she said.

More information on the law can be found at the Canadian government website.


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