How To Comply With Laws Regarding Direct Mail Marketing?
Direct mail has a lot of advantages, which is why we can see more and more marketers using this offline channel to reach out to prospects and customers. However, in order to do it right, you should be aware of the laws regarding direct mail marketing. There are several federal and provincial laws that govern advertising and marketing in Canada. Marketers should make themselves familiar with these laws and regulations and follow them.
These laws are meant to safeguard citizens against spam and unsolicited mail. Furthermore, they assure them that their personal data is not misused. Companies can also benefit from following the rules as they can save themselves from heavy penalties, damaging brand image, and also save marketing costs by not sending mail to people who don’t want it. In this blog, we will find out about the laws that direct mail marketers should know about.
The Competition Act is a federal law and the primary legislation that governs all types of advertising and marketing activities in Canada. It was introduced and brought into force by Canada’s federal Competition Bureau and prohibited both civil and criminal advertising activities that intend to promote businesses in a false or misleading way. This act also has several specific prohibitions meant to regulate different types of advertising methods. These prohibitions include sections related to promotional contests, testimonials, deceptive price notices, performance claims, sales above marketed prices, and other similar practices.
All direct mail marketers should check whether the provisions of the Competition Act are applicable to their direct mail items. They should take care that whatever is included is factual and not misleading in any way. False warranties, guarantees, bait-and-switch selling, and fake reviews are examples of the offenses that marketers should look out for and avoid. Failing to abide by the regulations of this act will lead to a penalty of up to $10 million for businesses and $750,000 for individuals.
In all fairness, following the act is pretty simple. It just expects marketers to show themselves for who they really are, represent their products and services rightly, and not intend on carrying out any fraudulent advertising activities.
Consumer Protection Legislation
Consumer protection laws are present in almost all provinces and territories of Canada. It is provincial and works in conjunction with the Competition Act. Such provincial laws differ for every province and territory but serve the basic motto of protecting consumers against unfair and fraudulent marketing practices. The British Columbia Business Practices and Consumer Protection Act and the Ontario Consumer Protection Act are examples of consumer protection legislation.
Generally, all the provincial consumer protection laws cover general misleading advertising methods and industry-specific rules both. Moreover, there are several ASC code rules to be followed. The Advertising Standards Canada (ASC) code governs various types of advertising activities, including direct mail marketing. It has laid down several regulations to combat fraudulent activities and misleading advertisements.
Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)
CASL, another federal law and one of the strictest anti-spam laws, came into existence in 2014. The legislation is meant to regulate CEMs (Commercial Electronic Messages). CEMs could be either emails, text, or instant messages that are sent for offering any kind of business transaction, opportunity, and promotion. Not just the message, even the hyperlinks and contact details in the message are also responsible for defining a message as a CEM.
Now, how does the CASL affect direct mail marketing? Most marketers start sending emails and text messages to their direct mail recipients without waiting for them to express their consent in any way. This act should be avoided, and marketers should only send CEMs to those with implied or expressed interest. Hence, there should be a proper opt-in system, and marketers should clearly include their true identity in the message. So, every time you conduct offline direct mail marketing, take into account the CASL rules before using CEMs to follow up.
Sweepstakes and Contests
A lot of marketers use contests or sweepstakes as direct mail items. Therefore, it is their duty to abide by the Canadian regulations regarding contests.
All promotional contests are regulated by not only the Competition Act but also the Contract law and Criminal Code. If you include a contest in your direct mail piece, it must have a list of rules which are basically some compulsory statutory disclosures, the terms and conditions, and a winner release form. It should also include a “no purchase necessary’ entry mode and a skill-testing question.
Moreover, it is important to also remember the Régie des alcools, des courses et des jeux (RACJ) in Quebec that governs such contests among several other things. They have some different rules and regulations that marketers need to follow while mailing contest materials to Quebec residents.
Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA)
PIPEDA is a federal law applicable to all private businesses in Canada. It governs the collection, disclosure, and use of personal information of individuals. It is similar to the European Union’s GDPR, wherein individuals can know who has access to their personal information and why. PIPEDA requires companies to obtain the individuals’ deemed, expressed, or implied consent for collecting, using, or disclosing their personal details.
Any private company that collects and uses personal data for the purpose of advertising or any commercial activity is automatically subject to follow the rules and regulations falling under PIPEDA. Thus, direct mail marketers can either obtain consent from their customers and prospects or take care to not include any data covered under PIPEDA which goes right up to a person’s name, which will lead to marketers sending out unpersonalized mail.
Do Not Mail Service
The Candian Marketing Association offers a service named “Do Not Mail.” Any person or organization that wishes to opt-out of receiving marketing mail can get their addresses registered with the association. This service is provided free of cost and enables individuals to be in charge of their incoming mail. It helps them avoid receiving unwanted mail. Individuals can either opt out from receiving mail from certain businesses or all businesses.
In order to comply with the laws regarding direct mail marketing, it is better for direct mail marketers to avoid sending any mail item to people who have voluntarily opted out. Doing so will not only save your time and efforts but will also maintain your brand reputation.
It is illegal to receive, steal, or obtain someone else’s mail fraudulently. Plus, the Canada Post Corporation Act (Sec 48) makes it illegal for someone to intentionally open and read mail that is not addressed to you, except in cases where it is authorized by the actual addressee. Hence, direct mail marketers should send mail only to the right addresses by verifying them before sending. PostGrid’s address verification API can help them achieve the same.
The next thing to remember is that you cannot advertise to children under the age of 13 in Quebec. In order provinces and territories, the Canadian Code of Advertising Standards, Broadcast Code for Advertising to Children, and other general advertising laws govern advertising to children.
Direct mail marketers must conduct campaigns legally, which is why they should follow all the direct marketing laws. It can help them avoid legal hassles and fines while maintaining a good image in the market. Though these laws are primarily designed and enforced for protecting consumers, they also help businesses in several ways and allows them to concentrate on prospects that are truly interested in them.