Young stressed handsome businessman working at desk in modern office shouting at laptop screen and being angry about e-mail spam. Collage with a mountain of crumpled paper. Business, internet concept

Spam by any other name smells the same

by Paul Cowhig, Advisor, Professional Standards

I receive a steady trickle of phone calls and emails from irritated members about what they often term “unwelcome spamming” by other members promoting their own listings by sending emails and even Touchbase messages to other members. Or even Brokers using email to solicit agents to switch brokerages.

By the time these members call me, they are often using highly colourful language to describe this activity. To say they feel strongly would be an understatement.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is a law that regulates the use of email, text messages and other forms of electronic messages for marketing purposes. These sorts of messages are considered Commercial Electronic Messages (CEMS) under CASL, and there are rules and guidelines to follow on both sides of this conversation as well as serious consequences in the event of a complaint.

Electronic messages sent to promote listings or solicit agents would be considered CEMs under CASL since their purpose is to encourage participation in a commercial activity. This means that in order to be onside with the legislation:

  • the recipient must have consented to receiving the messages
  • the messages must contain the required sender identification
  • the messages must contain an unsubscribe link that works

I get these calls of irritation because the people who receive these calls say they haven’t provided consent.

But on the other end of these email messages, the senders believe they have implied consent because the receiver’s business email address is publicly available on their website or other channels.

What to do if you do not want to receive unsolicited emails:

Step 1:  Next to your email address on your website and other online locations, you must include a statement saying that unsolicited emails are not welcome. For example, “This email address is provided only for inquiries from consumers.” You will need to do this in every location your email address is published, including social media, because if there is no such statement, the publication of your email address may be taken as “implied consent.”

Step 2: Unsubscribe from any mailing lists you‘re on that may have come from publishing your email address on the Internet in various places.

If you take these two steps and the sender of the CEM continues to send you emails, you have a basis for a complaint to the Canadian Radio and Television Commission (CRTC).

What to do if you are on the sending side of this conversation:

Be considerate. Follow the rules.

Make sure there is no remark to the effect that the individual does not want to receive this sort of message and if they ask to be unsubscribed, unsubscribe them immediately, or risk the consequences.

The bottom line:

We live in a world where we are bombarded with information from a thousand different directions. It can be irritating and exhausting. We need to be considerate of one another.

The truth is, some members are happy to receive these emails but if you don’t want them, there is a way to stop them. I think it’s fair to expect that we all know the rules and play the game accordingly.

Hear what Dennis Wilson had to say about members marketing listings to other members a few years ago.

More information:

Here’s a handy guide from CREA on the anti-spam legislation.