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123rf13481323 largeCanada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) has been a long time coming. For the past three years we’ve known this day will arrive, and on July 1, 2017 the transition period is over and CASL becomes law.

If there’s anything you still don’t know about it, you can read MailChimp’s detailed article here, which covers the topic fairly thoroughly. For those who have been following the process, here is the “Cliffs Notes” version:

Any “commercial electronic message” (CEM) sent to a recipient in Canada with whom you do not have an established relationship can be considered spam,

Any “commercial electronic message” (CEM) sent to a recipient in Canada with whom you do not have an established relationship can be considered spam, unless you can prove you have either implied or express consent to send it, which does not include verbal agreement to receive messages. This includes communications sent by employees of your company using your domain address, even if you are unaware of the message. The recipient of a CEM that fits the criteria of spam can report and/or sue you.

As stringent as this sounds, it isn’t all bad news. Some aspects are actually a good thing and will hopefully lead to increased credibility for legitimate email marketing, along with paving the way for more of your genuine emails to get through the spam filters.

So, are you compliant with CASL? Here are the best (and worst) points to consider:

The Good

Reducing spam can only be a good thing for all legitimate businesses, and CASL aims to do that first and foremost.

By enforcing best practices such double opt-in, and easy, preferably one-click unsubscribing, senders can expect improved open rates.

By enforcing best practices such double opt-in, and easy, preferably one-click unsubscribing, senders can expect improved open rates.

With average email open rates across all industries around 20 percent and average click-through rates around 2 percent, if the standard holds true, then higher open rates are likely to translate into better lead generation.

The Bad

Apart from the work involved,

CASL is proving costly for Canadian companies to implement,

CASL is proving costly for Canadian companies to implement, and some commenters believe it’s already strangling businesses.

Many companies have already scaled back on email marketing, simply because it’s a nightmare to try and comply. Others have spent money on software capable of managing the 6-month and 2-year purge requirements for business relationships that have “ended.” These funds, they believe, are better spent on innovation, hiring and expansion, rather than implementing legislation that is anti-competitive and competes with the federal government’s mandate to keep Canada at the leading edge of the digital economy.

In addition,

fines for contravening CASL after July 1, 2017 will be ridiculously high,

fines for contravening CASL after July 1, 2017 will be ridiculously high, and the opportunity to sue is likely to bring every get-rich-quick opportunist and their attorneys crawling out of the woodwork. If this happened in the U.S. there would be ads on billboards and on TV saying: “Your life has been ruined by receiving unsolicited email! Get rich overnight.” and “Massive judgements guaranteed because it’s your right. Call 1-800-get-richreallyquick!”

Frankly, for Canadians this makes CASL a deterrent to doing business – at least through digital marketing unless you have the recipients permission to send messages to them.

The Really Ugly (Truth)

A sad truth of this matter is that

most of the spam received by users comes from companies unaffected by CASL,

most of the spam received by users comes from companies unaffected by CASL, because they are located elsewhere.

Canadians get far more email from U.S.-based companies simply because there are more of them. In addition, U.S. companies are the most prolific in terms of email marketing, thanks in part to the influence of software giants HubSpot, Marketo, and others, which all have huge U.S. client bases.

So, if the biggest players in the Canadian market are unaffected by CASL, doesn’t this make it both irrelevant and ineffective? Maybe so, but since by all accounts we’re currently stuck with it, here are a few ideas for long-term solutions that won’t break the bank or put you out of business.

Potential Solutions

  1. Revise your overall business strategy to ensure you don’t overlook any critical issues. It’s one thing to be looking at your email marketing strategy, but take a step back from the “nuts-and-bolts” approach and consider the big picture:
  • Is your business reliant on leads generated through email offers and promotions?
  • What percentage of your sales comes via digital communications?
  • Do you have control over what each one of your employees is sending out?

These are good questions to answer under any circumstances, but with CASL looming they are even more important.

If your answers don’t enable you to sleep better at night, it’s an ideal time to call in a business coach to help review your goals and strategy.

If your answers don’t enable you to sleep better at night, it’s an ideal time to call in a business coach to help review your goals and strategy.

  1. Take steps to ensure your email lists meet CASL requirements for permission to send and have the required documentation.
  2. Look for new ways to reach prospects that don’t involve email marketing. If one of your answers the questions above showed an unusual dependence on email marketing, consider employing other methods of reaching your prospects. Perhaps it’s time to revert to good, old-fashioned direct mail despite its very high cost.

    Perhaps website optimization, SEO and social media advertising spending can help achieve the same results.

    Perhaps website optimization, SEO and social media advertising spending can help achieve the same results. Revise your marketing strategy along with your overall business goals, and discover how you can move away from the CASL problem.
  3. Segment your U.S. clients from your Canadian ones. If U.S. senders aren’t bound by CASL, neither are U.S. clients. CEMs accessed in most other countries aren’t subject to the legislation, so as long as you separate out your Canadian recipients you’re able to keep sending communications to the rest of your client base. And for companies active in foreign markets, that is good news.

There isn’t much Canadian companies can do to escape, but the government’s CASL website has a wealth of information and contact details. And of course, if this isn't making much sense to your company, let your elected officials know about the problems the law is causing so it may be better written to reflect market realities.

** This article constitutes our opinions only and is not intended to provide legal advice. It is strongly advised that you consult with competent legal counsel in respect to compliance.

Additional resources:

http://pm.gc.ca/eng/minister-innovation-science-and-economic-development-mandate-letter

https://venturebeat.com/2017/05/13/marketers-are-you-ready-for-canadas-july-1-spam-law/

http://business.financialpost.com/fp-comment/canadas-anti-spam-laws-are-strangling-our-businesses-but-theres-an-easy-way-to-make-them-work-better

http://www.cbe.ab.ca/about-us/policies-and-regulations/casl/Pages/default.aspx

http://kb.mailchimp.com/accounts/compliance-tips/about-the-canada-anti-spam-law-casl

http://crtc.gc.ca/eng/internet/anti.htm

http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/00273.html

http://www.the-cma.org/regulatory/code-and-guidelines/cma-guide-to-canada-anti-spam-law?gclid=CjwKEAjwgtTJBRDRmd6ZtLrGyxwSJAA7Fy-hZFnedyKFc2T36EaqtzvM5Soe6BCmhb4t6dEYV8zlUBoCeAXw_wcB

https://mailchimp.com/resources/research/email-marketing-benchmarks/#section_average_by_industry

http://www.smartinsights.com/ecommerce/web-personalisation/web-personalization-software/

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