How Does Canada’s New Anti-spam Legislation Effect Dental Practices?
IMPORTANT NOTICE: The information below has been sourced from the Government of Canada’s anti-spam website and does not constitute legal advice. Those seeking more specific information are encouraged to consult with their own legal council or the Government of Canada directly using the information provided on their website: FIGHTSPAM.GC.CA/EIC/SITE/030.NSF/ENG/HOME.
Most dental practice owners have at least heard of Canada’s new Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) and know that it may effect how they conduct business. I have created this blog to address some of the questions I have been receiving about how this new legislation pertains to dental practices and what managers can do to avoid costly violations.
The CASL came into effect on July 1st of 2014. The legislation prohibits the sending of Commercial Electronic Messages (CEMs) to individuals or organizations – without their permission – in an attempt to sell or promote a product or service. CEMs may take several forms including emails, social networking messages, and text messages. The legislation also guards against businesses accessing a potential customers’ computer to obtain their email addresses (aka “address harvesting”) or other personal information.
Who Enforces the CASL?
Enforcement falls under the jurisdiction of the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the Competition Bureau, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner. Penalties for violations range from simple warnings for first time offences to fines of up to $1 million for individuals to $10 million for businesses.
Impact on Dental Practices
Under the legislation, dental offices that send out CEMs (which may include newsletters and periodic updates) must have at least implied consent from their recipients. Furthermore, senders now have 36 months (3 years) to obtain express consent from the aforementioned recipients. Existing contact/mailing lists may still be utilized provided the senders have the implied or express consent of their recipients.
Types of Consent
Practice owners can assume they have the IMPLIED CONSENT if their recipients’ contact information is listed somewhere in plain sight (such as in a magazine or on a website), if the information is personally given to you (i.e. a recipient gives you his or her business card), or if the sender has an existing relationship with the recipient.
Even if CEM senders already possess implied consent from their recipient, they should make an effort to obtain the recipients’ EXPRESS CONSENT as soon as possible. Express consent may be obtained from the recipient orally or (preferably) in writing. This type of consent, however, can be withdrawn by the recipient at any time.
3 Components Required to Send a CEM under the CASL
So you want to begin or continue sending out mass emails to your patients or contacts? No problem, just ensure you satisfy the following 3 requirements moving forward:
1) You possess at LEAST the implied consent of your recipients.
2) Your message clearly identifies the name of your business and product/service you are offering.
3) You include an “Unsubscribe Mechanism” in your CEM (such as a “click here to unsubscribe” link in the case of emails).
The Future of CASL
The CASL is a continually evolving legislation. By July 1, 2017, private citizens and organizations will also be permitted to pursue civil legal action against senders who are found to be in violation.
While the rules associated with Canada’s anti-spam legislation may appear overwhelming at first glance, I hope that this blog helps to simplify the requirements for dental practice managers. The goal of the legislation is to decrease the amount of spam and malware originating in Canada while not imposing overly-onerous restrictions on businesses’ ability to advertise their products and services. By reviewing and implementing the information provided, dental practice managers can proceed with confidence, knowing that they are promoting their dental practice in the most compliant and ethical manner possible.
Contact SAJE’s Dental Compliance Expert
Do you still have questions about Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation or other dental compliance-related issues (such as eye-wash station, employee training, or sterilization requirements)? SAJE’s Dental Compliance Program (DCP) can help! You can also book a one-hour appointment to have an associate complete SAJE’s Comprehensive Dental Compliance Checklist at your office for only $115 + HST. Our personalized treatment plan will help elevate your office’s level of compliance and keep it up to date as legislative and regulatory requirements are always changing.
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