Last week the CRTC, the Canadian regulatory body tasked with CASL enforcement, issued notice of yet another notice of action for violations of the Anti-Spam Law. The Commission imposed a penalty of $15,000 against William Rapanos, alleging that messages sent by Mr. Rapanos in mid-2014 were in violation of multiple provisions of CASL.
This decision is noteworthy because it represents the first time a CASL penalty has been levied against an individual. All previous actions to this point have been issued against companies or corporate entities: names like Compu-Finder, Porter Airlines, PlentyofFish, and Kellogg Canada are among those hit with prior penalties.
The CRTC decision indicates that messages from Mr. Rapanos were sent without the recipient’s consent, did not clearly indicate the sender of the message, made it difficult or impossible to contact the sender, and (in at least one case) included no unsubscribe method.
Another interesting tidbit is that the Spam Reporting Centre received a total of 58 complaints about Rapanos’ messages. These complaints were mostly unique, with 50 different recipients lodging complaints to the SRC.
In discussions about CASL, I’ve heard quite a few people theorize that the CRTC is only looking for large-scale violations and penalties against smaller senders or individuals are unlikely. William Rapanos may have thought the same thing. Or he may have thought the effort and cost involved in CASL compliance weren’t worth it. Then 50 people complained, and now he’s on the hook for $15,000.
I think this decision – and the resulting penalty – proves to Mr. Rapanos and to all of us that compliance is definitely worth it.
Have questions about CASL compliance? Disagree that compliance is paramount for every sender? Leave a comment or email me to keep the discussion going!
Much has been said about the Canadian Anti-Spam Law, CASL, both before and since its effective date in July 2014. On the anti-CASL side, one of the loudest arguments is that the law places undue burden on lawful, legitimate marketers instead of the malicious spam peddlers of the world. However, it seems the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is trying to address those concerns and reach out to marketers who fear running afoul of CASL regulations.
In an address to the Canadian Marketing Association on Tuesday, CRTC chairman Jean-Pierre Blais reiterated the importance of allowing consumers full control over their digital communication channels. Comparing spam messages to personal violations of privacy, he noted that “[J]ust as we don’t like it when strangers intrude on our personal spaces or show up on our doorsteps, we don’t like it when unwanted messages and annoying calls enter the private spaces of our smartphones.”
Blais went on to address the feelings of many marketers that the CRTC is targeting too many legitimate businesses, asserting “[w]e don’t go out looking for dragons to slay. We much prefer helping marketers comply with the law than enforcing it after they’ve broken it.” Blais’ statement here seems to address the high volume of complaints received by the CRTC that have ostensibly driven most of the penalties assessed thus far. As for his personal preferences on marketing email, he stated “I actually want [brands] to tell me (as a consumer) when they’ve got specials, as long as there is that trusted relationship.”
Later, Blais reminded those in attendance of the new provision of the law coming into force in 2017 that allows private citizens the right to take legal action and seek damages against senders. Along with the reminder came a warning that the CRTC may be the least of some marketers’ worries: “Once there’s a private right of action, I won’t be able to help you … you’re on your own. Good luck with that. All the more reason to get into compliance as much as you can with us, because it will diminish the risk.”