Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL): 3 Parts You Need to Know

On July 1st, 2014 a large part of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) goes into effect. This is a look at which parts of the legislation attempts to legislate common sense and where it lacks common sense altogether.

1. Implied Consent is Not Acceptable.

What is implied consent? Well, some people think that since they collected a business card at say, a networking event, consent to add someone’s email address to their email list is implied or assumed.

At face value, CASL appears to be so draconian and aggressive, marketers like you and I will not be able to follow up with our prospects with a relevant email after a face-to-face meeting. Of course, that makes no sense whatsoever.

The funny part – in both ironic and humorous meanings – about this legislation is that the ‘purpose’ section expressly states:

“3. The purpose of this Act is to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating commercial conduct that discourages the use of electronic means to carry out commercial activities…”

Here is what I take from this part…

Promote the efficiency…

Okay, that sounds like CASL will effectively end all spam in Canada and make the country a powerhouse of increased productivity. My opinion: the spam problem isn’t anything close to that much of a problem because enterprise and even small-sized businesses have spam detection software in place to prevent it. So I can’t see it making Canadian businesses more efficient.

Promote the adaptability…

By adaptability, I can only infer that Canadian businesses and their marketing teams will need to adapt to this legislation. What else can this sentence mean? Promoting the adaptability of the economy? Huh? What could the economy possibly adapt to?

Now let’s be clear: the purpose in section three does not mention in any shape or form that it would grow the Canadian economy. It said it would somehow make it more efficient.

To grow the Canadian economy, businesses need the ability to build relationships with other businesses with relevant, meaningful, email communication. Prohibiting the ability to reach out to someone you’ve never met to provide useful information and stay in touch with that person is going to do nothing but damage our Canadian economy and possibly diminish post-recession gains.

Based on what I have outlined above, this section of the legislation is far overreaching and ill-conceived. Sure, implied consent is black hat marketing when it comes to adding names to an email list, whereas reaching out for a one-time prospecting email, without consent, to build a business relationship should not be considered spam.

Speaking of email lists, would the CASL legislation affect your email marketing?

2. It’s Opt-In Only

Before discussing the opt-in piece, what is opt-in?

Opt-in simply means exactly as it sounds. One would need to opt-in or ask for email communication from a company or consultant before they receive it. As indicated, opt-in messages relates to email lists.

That’s why I completely agree with opt-in email marketing … for lists. Who wants to be arbitrarily added to an email list, especially if it is irrelevant to someone’s interests or needs?

If you are reading this as an article in my newsletter, you not only opted in to receive it, but you confirmed your choice to be one of my valued readers. This is known as a double opt-in.

If you are reading this message on my blog, you are certainly not doing so under any duress and could choose to click away at any time.

Therefore, if lead quality is even slightly important to you, chances are you’re already using opt-in marketing. This should not even affect webinar lead generation conversion rates, as the registration process is already an opt-in.

If you do not currently use an opt-in process to generate and nurture leads in an email series or other drip marketing but do prospect by email, you’ve likely lost a certain portion of your prospects as a spammer.

You agreed to be on their list. Does that mean you’re on it FOREVER?

3. Unsubscribe Instructions Must Be Provided.

The subhead nearly says it all. Just because you signed up to get an email newsletter, you do not have to continue receiving for an eternity. Let’s dig into it a bit deeper though.

Email Service Providers (ESPs) on either side of the Canada/US border should be happy that this section of the legislation exists, as providing a quick an easy unsubscribe option will result in more customers for them.

Sure, unsubscribes can be handled with typical email clients (Microsoft Outlook, Apple Mail etc.) by informing people to reply with “unsubscribe” in the subject line. But this is generally time consuming for both sender and “unsubscriber,” since it is a manual process.

It’s as simple as providing a door to leave through. You wouldn’t invite your guests over and weld your doors shut. (You could bring up cults, but stay with me. 😉

As in the necessity of opting-in mentioned above, any ethical marketer or individual – either for profit or non-profit – should already be giving their subscribers a way to unsubscribe from their list anyway.

After all, ESPs have provided the functionality for many, many years now.

While this has been a look at only three parts of the CASL legislation, there are other parts to it as well, some more complicated than others.

How will this legislation play out?

As a Canadian I can see two completely different CASL scenarios:

One scenario would be a monumental shift in how our country deals with unwanted electronic communication. Any individual marketer or corporation who reaches out to a stranger by electronic means, to say hello would be prosecuted with a one million dollar to ten million dollar fine, per day the communication took place, respectively.

Perhaps people without a million dollars may lose their houses through a forced sale to settle fines. Canada would suffer more embarrassment than even Rob Ford could deliver to a country.

Another scenario might be that Canadian taxpayers’ money will be wasted on legislation enforced about as effectively as the Do Not Call (DNC) Registry. (For non-Canadians, the DNC registry was the CRTC’s ineffective solution to Canadians getting unwanted telephone calls, or telemarketing.)

If the DNC registry can’t prevent me from getting calls selling duct cleaning services, how would this legislation protect me from getting unwanted spam? History usually has a way of repeating itself.

What are your thoughts on CASL coming into effect in less than two months?

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