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Maxim Kazmin

The anti-spam law does not come into force until next year, but the country's telecom watchdog is urging companies to start making sure right now that their practices are up to snuff.

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) put out two bulletins Wednesday that provide companies with examples of acceptable practices in the use of commercial electronic messages and promotions.

One bulletin lays out guidelines on the use of toggling – a check box on a website -- in order to get consent from consumers.

The use of so-called opting-out methods is strictly forbidden, says the CRTC. That means using pre-checked boxes that put the on the consumer to uncheck the box if he or she does not want to be solicited.

The CRTC says electronic messages from companies will have to contain an unfilled check box which consumers must tick off in order to show they want to receive material from the sender.

"Canadian businesses, both large and small, are strongly encouraged to familiarize themselves with the law, the regulations and the information bulletins. Even though the law is not yet in force, businesses should start preparing now by updating their practices and developing compliance procedures," Andrea Rosen, the CRTC's chief compliance and enforcement officer, says in a news release.

Canada's anti-spam legislation received royal assent on Dec. 15, 2010. The CRTC says the goal is to protect Canadians from spam, malware, including phishing and spyware, and other "electronic threats."

The new regulation requires businesses to get explicit consent from consumers before they can send them promotional emails or other commercial messages.

The commission also spells out details regarding the information senders have to include in messages to get consumer consent.

There is also a rundown on consumer-friendly mechanisms that allow consumers to unsubscribe from a sender's commercial electronic messages.

For example, an approved method would be a link in an email to a Web page where a consumer can easily unsubscribe.

In the case of a short message service (SMS), the consumer should be able to choose between replying to the SMS message with the word "STOP" or "Unsubscribe" and clicking on a link to a page where he or she can unsubscribe from receiving all or some types of commercial messages.

The CRTC will be one of 3 agencies responsible for enforcing the law. The other 2 are the Office of the Privacy Commissioner and the Competition Bureau.

The CRTC says it will have primary enforcement responsibility and have authority to investigate, take action against and fine violators who send unwanted spam or install malware and alter transmission data.

The sample used, with a 100 per cent response rate, would have an estimated margin of error of plus or minus 2 per cent, 19 times out of 20, says Ipsos Reid.

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