Written by By Sarah Henderson, CNN
If you see some discrepancy in an advertisement that you saw on television, or simply find yourself clicking on the campaign or product’s link, you probably want to know if there’s a problem with the message.
But was it a mistake? Or, worse still, a spammer who attached a nonsensical message to your messages to your email inbox?
If the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission gets its way, the latter scenario will be a criminal offense in Canada.
The organization recently announced that it has been ordered to require specific “notifications” when you’re asked to either view or interact with advertisements (a common violation of Canada’s anti-spam law — the CAN-SPAM Act).
That disclosure includes text on the advertisement itself, as well as a link to a web page where customers are asked to allow “advertisers to deliver advertisements to your inbox.”
To really get the ball rolling, the CRTC has awarded its first $200,000 fine. It’s being allotted against apparel retailer Gap Canada — a company which apparently has a habit of distributing spammy content.
“To be clear, no advertisements are exempt from having an accompanying notification, as a disclaimer is not required on a Canadian website with other physical ads,” the CRTC wrote in a news release.
The organization said in its latest complaint that Gap’s latest campaign, for a clothing line called Down-to-Earth by Hilary Duff, included four pop-up video screens. But each of the seven separate ads showed an identical text message asking for consumers to open up a tab with the retailer so they could view the campaign.
“Canadian consumers can often be at the receiving end of nuisance (solicited) e-mail messages. When messages seeking to `subscribe’ or `continue’ to receive promotional emails through a direct email marketing channel fail to provide pertinent information to enable consumers to make an informed choice, we take action,” the CRTC said.
“The Can-SPAM Act mandates the upfront delivery of the information required so that consumers have the ability to make informed choices about providing their consent, or declining to have their communications directed to their inboxes,” the organization added.
The charges are likely to have a widespread impact, as the legislation will put a new measure in place to enforce tighter restrictions, especially for large businesses that can afford the option to hire more employees to verify delivery of notifications.