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Icons representing Canada's anti-spam legislation in regular mail, electronic mail, text messaging, and social mediaIf you’re expanding into Canada, make sure you consider Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) as part of your business plan. It may seem like a small thing, but the fines for violations can be significant. So can the fines for failing to communicate in French with customers in Québec. Rather than allowing these regulations to cost you, think about how they can be an opportunity to grow your customer base.

Depending on where you are in the process of selling your goods or services to our northern neighbors, you may already be familiar with language regulations around operating in Canada, and especially in the eastern province of Québec. The Charter of the French language, and its amendment Bill 96, affirm that residents of Québec have the right to access goods and services, both public and private, in French. Advertising emails – and for compliance with Canada’s anti-spam legislation, consent messages – sent to Québecois customers, therefore, would need to be in French.

A map of Canada with the province of Québec colored blueAs with anything in business, you must consider the cost/benefit analysis of translating your commercial electronic messages. Bill 96 is only applicable in the province of Québec, and translation does represent an additional investment. If you do not plan to open any stores in Québec and you do not sell a product that can be shipped, you may not need to translate. For example, GoodLife Fitness does not have any locations in Québec, and their website is available only in English (as far as we can tell). As we mentioned in the introduction to this post, however, translation can expand your reach beyond an English-speaking audience. French-speaking Canadians do not exclusively inhabit Québec, and research has demonstrated that the majority of online customers are more likely to engage with content in their language. Additionally, if you think you may want to operate in Québec at some point, translating at least some of your materials will give you a head start on the Francization process.

If you are planning to do any sort of business in Québec, whether in a brick-and-mortar store or exclusively digitally, you’ll need to complete Francization to be compliant with the Charter of the French language. If you’re efficient in your approach, translating the necessary messages for compliance with Canada’s anti-spam legislation should represent a negligible investment. Word count factors heavily into most translation pricing structures, but most translators also charge a minimum fee for assignments less than a certain number of words. We always advise our clients to “bundle” as much copy as possible when they request translation. Otherwise translating a 20-word pop-up message on its own may cost as much as translating a full page of text.

A consent agreement for commercial electronic messages from Dairy Queen for compliance with Canada's anti-spam legislationCASL private action rights were originally planned to go into effect in the summer of 2017, which would have allowed lawsuits to be filed against individuals and organizations for alleged violations of Canada’s anti-spam legislation. They were ultimately suspended. While this may seem to be a relief for organizations concerned with a rise in costly lawsuits, it does not negate other consequences. The best thing organizations can do is get up to speed with the laws and ensure that electronic communications are only sent to consumers who have provided consent. While there are certain exceptions to the need for express consent (such as the existence of an existing business relationship [EBR]), it is probably wise to start thinking about the various channels through which consumer interactions happen and manage the conversion from implied consent to express consent. If you are a US-based organization creating content mostly in English, keep in mind that translating these materials will take some time.

You’ll also need to keep in mind any provisions that are specific to Canadian consumers, such as appropriate references to local laws, terms and conditions, and how (and where) legal disputes would be handled. If you have customers who live in Québec, the Office québécois de la langue française will also oversee your compliance with serving those customers in French, whether exclusively online or in physical stores. If you do have physical stores in Québec, any procedural changes that affect staff in those stores will also have to be communicated in French.

If you need any help with translation of materials for your business pursuits in Canada, including compliance with Canada’s anti-spam legislation, do not hesitate to contact us!