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Complying with anti-spam regulations

Regulations exist in both the United States and Canada to regulate commercial email messaging and limit unsolicited messages, commonly called spam. Penalties for non-compliance are significant in both cases. These regulations – and how your Wild Apricot site can comply with them – are discussed below.

CAN-SPAM Act (United States)

The CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 provides standards for sending commercial e-mail within the United Status, and is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Each separate email in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act is subject to penalties of up to $16,000.

The requirements of the CAN-SPAM Act as they apply to Wild Apricot sites include:

Requirements

How Wild Apricot sites can comply

Your “From” and “Reply-To” email addresses must accurately identify the person or business who initiated the message.

Check your:

The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.

Enter a straightforward summary of the message in the Subject line.

If an advertisement, the message must clearly identify itself as such.

Use the Subject line to clearly identify the message as a promotion, appeal, or recruitment drive. For example, if you are promoting an event, begin your subject with "Event promo: " or something similar. If you are soliciting for donations, start the subject with "Donor appeal: ". So you don't forget each time, you can customize the Subject lines in your email template(s).

Your message must include your valid physical postal address.

Add your postal address to your message. So you don't forget each time, add it to your email template(s).

Your message must include a clear explanation of how to opt out of receiving future emails from you.

If you do not include a link to the {Unsubscribe_Url} macro in your email, one will be automatically appended to the message.

You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days.

Unsubscribe requests submitted using the {Unsubscribe_Url} macro are processed immediately. Unsubscribed contacts are automatically removed from the recipient list when sending email blasts.

CASL (Canada)

The Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) went into effect on 1 July 2014. This law applies to any organization that sends commercial electronic messages to recipients based in Canada. If you use Wild Apricot to send commercial or promotional emails to Canadian residents, then you will likely need to comply with CASL.

Disclaimer

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Please note this article is not a legal opinion. Here, we simply try to offer some ideas on how to comply with CASL to the best of our knowledge. We encourage you to consult a lawyer familiar with this issue. 

What is a commercial electronic message?

A commercial electronic message is an email containing commercial or promotional information including marketing, sales, offers, solicitations, or similar messages.

What are CASL’s requirements?

The law specifies 3 requirements for sending a commercial electronic message to an electronic address. You need:

  • consent
  • identification information, and
  • an unsubscribe mechanism.

Types of consent

Before sending a commercial electronic message to a Canadian resident, you must obtain consent. You should also be able to prove how and when that consent was given should the need arise.There are two kinds of consent: express and implied.

Implied consent

  • If you are a club, association or voluntary organization and the recipient is one of your members, you have implied consent, as long as the individual remains a member
  • If someone submits an application, registers for an event, donates or subscribes to receive emails through your site then consent to receive emails from you is implied.
  • However, this implied consent is valid for only 6 months from the transaction date, after which you will need to obtain express consent.

Express consent

  • Obtaining express consent requires a user to take a pro-active step to consent to receiving emails from you. It is our understanding that simply agreeing to your “terms of use” for example is not enough – they need to actually agree to receive emails from you.
  • Your request for consent must clearly include:
    • Concise description of your purpose in obtaining consent
    • Description of messages you plan to send
    • Your name and contact information (physical mailing address and either phone, email or website URL)
    • A statement indicating they are free to unsubscribe at any time.

Obtaining express consent in Wild Apricot

There are a few ways you can obtain and track express consent in Wild Apricot.

Custom field

  • Create a mandatory custom common field which prompts the user to grant or withhold consent to receive emails.
  • You can also include field instructions with a short description they are consenting to receive emails from you.
  • New users will be forced to consent (or withhold consent) when they first apply, register, donate, etc. while existing members can consent by updating their profile.

Email subscription form

  • Add a special email subscription form with clear instructions subscribing via this form means consenting to receive all types of emails from you.
  • You can then ask members to consent by subscribing via this form.

You then perform a search and email only those who have consented via the custom field or subscription form.

Current shortcomings

  • The above methods only apply to manual emails. For automatic emails like event announcements and renewal reminders, there is currently no way to exclude those who have not given express consent. A workaround is to disable the automatic announcements and manually send them.
  • Unsubscribing from emails using existing Wild Apricot functionality will not automatically update the consent custom field, and vice versa (i.e. consenting via the custom field or email subscription form will not automatically update the member’s email subscriptions as well).
  • The system will not automatically track who/when the custom field was updated.

Identifying the sender

A commercial email message must identify the person who sent it or, if sent by a third party, the person on whose behalf it was sent. The message must also include contact information for the sender. So you don't forget each time you send a mass email, you should add your contact information to your email template(s).

Providing an unsubscribe mechanism

The message must provide an easy method for the recipient to opt-out (unsubscribe) from receiving future emails. For manual email blasts, Wild Apricot automatically includes an {Unsubscribe_Url} macro in your email, if you haven’t already entered one yourself. Unsubscribed contacts are automatically removed from the recipient list when sending email blasts.

Planned changes to address CASL

We plan to add special functionality to address CASL in future. There is a transition period until July 1, 2017 where you can continue to email those with implied consent (beyond the 6 month limit), and we plan to have something in place well before then.

See also

Regulations in other jurisdictions

On this page: 

 
Wild Apricot Inc. 144 Front Street West Suite 725, Toronto, Ontario, Canada M5J 2L7