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.

To help you comply with regulations that require express consent before sending an email to a contact, Wild Apricot allows you to enable an opt-in mechanism so that contacts can expressly provide their consent to receive emails from your organization.

For guidelines on designing emails that are not flagged as spam, see Best practices for composing emails.

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

  • Your “From” and “Reply-To” email addresses must accurately identify the person or business who initiated the message.
  • The subject line must accurately reflect the content of the message.
  • If an advertisement, the message must clearly identify itself as such.
  • Your message must include your valid physical postal address.
  • Your message must include a clear explanation of how to opt out of receiving future emails from you.
  • You must honor a recipient’s opt-out request within 10 business days.

How to comply

  • Enter a straightforward summary of the message in the Subject line.
  • If the message is a promotion, appeal, or recruitment drive, use the Subject line to clearly identify the message as such. 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).
  • Check your Reply to contact for email blasts, event organizer for event emails, and contact email for all other emails
  • Add your postal address to your message. So you don't forget each time, add it to your email template(s).
  • Include a link to the {Unsubscribe_Url} macro in your email.

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 need to comply with CASL.

Penalties for non-compliance come into force on July 1, 2017. The maximum penalty for violations is $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses.

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 24 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:
    • A 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

To help you obtain express consent to send emails to your Canadian contacts, Wild Apricot is adding an opt-in mechanism. If you enable the opt-in mechanism, you can send consent request emails to your contacts, then track their opt-in status from each contact’s Email settings and log tab.

In the future, enabling the opt-in mechanism will also result in a checkbox requesting consent being added to all forms that prompt new contacts to enter an email address.

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.

See also:

Regulations in other jurisdictions