CASL and why it sucks

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It’s been WAY to long since I’ve written anything, but then again I warned of that in my very first post. Working full time, with a part time job on top, hasn’t left a lot of time to write. I’ve made notes of what I’d like to write about so whenever I get time I’ll probably put out a bunch in a very short period. As for today however I am going to talk about SPAM, the ridiculous actions Canada has taken against it, why this legislation won’t fix anything and why it will hurt most well behaving businesses.

Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) is going to war against SPAM and just as it sounds CASL is a castle for Canada, and like castles of old if you aren’t fortunate enough to be inside the castle during the battle then your shit out of luck.

If you haven’t heard of CASL and you do any form of email or digital marketing then stop reading. No seriously, stop reading and go figure your life out. CASL comes into effect July 1st, 2014 and companies need to have their contact lists figured out. Yes, THEIR contact lists, no more buying contact lists folks. The key aspect of CASL is consent. People need to consent to communicate with you, I know such a pain right? There are two types of consent involved, explicit and implied. Explicit is easy, someone fills out a form to be on your mailing list consenting directly to be communicate with by your company. Implied has some wiggle room. Implied consent is essentially the assumption that because a consumer has had some form of interaction with your company they have implied their consent to be contacted, such as being a member, asking for information, ect. Implied consent does have a timeline though and needs to be turn into explicit consent within 6 months to 2 years (depending on the nature of the implied consent).

Still following along? Don’t worry I’ll link to a full description at the end.

There are a few exceptions to the legislations of course. Charities and Non-profits, which makes sense really because unsolicited requests for money is essentially their business plan. Also on the exempt list are politicians, shock there! Don’t know how they would manage without sending me stuff I don’t want or need (aka SPAM). You may think you are exempt if you aren’t a Canadian company, but if you do any dealings with Canadians then you’re in trouble too. CASL regulation states it will pursue foreign offenders (whether this happens or not if very much up in the air).

So slap on the wrist for offences? Nope, CASL is the strictest legislation of its kind to date. The fines can rack up to $1,000,000 for individuals and $10,000,000 for companies. Fortunately for most there is a three year window before personal legal action can be taken against companies. As in, until 2017 Jane Smith can’t sue company ABC for sending her “spam”. Which is great because it allows companies to get adjusted and the legislation won’t bog down the legal system.

Those are the basic facts about CASL, as I mentioned I’ll link to a larger description at the end. Now for me to explain why this is 10% ok and 90% awful.

I’ll start with the 10% good. CASL will not stop SPAM by any means but it will provide the legislation required to take legal action against parties found guilty of “spamming”. What this means is that companies who are actually using bad practices can be brought to justice. The other good part of CASL, from a consumer stand point, is the regulations on what must be included in an email. The email must include who the email is from and/or on whose behalf, how to contact the sender(s), and an easily accessible “unsubscribe” button. Therefore, the receiver knows exactly who is contacting them and can easily put a stop to future emails is they see so fit.

Why CASL is 90% bad. I’ll admit now that these percentages aren’t scientifically proven but CASL is definitely more bad than good. When we talk about SPAM we think of actual SPAM. Phishing schemes, fake pharmaceuticals, a tech savvy Nigerian Prince and other generally malicious activities that are trying to take advantage of naïve users. You know why CASL won’t stop this type of SPAM? Because the senders of these emails didn’t care about the laws before, why would they possibly start caring now? Also the majorities of these companies are located outside of Canada and as much as they boast that they will “pursue foreign offends” let’s be serious. In conclusion, CASL does absolutely nothing to stop malicious spam. However, there are also companies that engage with consumers through email, using what would be considered ‘best practice’ at the time. These companies didn’t try to mislead consumers or engage in any malicious activities. They were simply trying to market their product through email, more often than not to a targeted market that may actually benefit from the product being marketed to them. Since CASL changes what is ‘best practice’ these companies now have a lot of work to do in order to comply. Mailing lists are out the window and now companies need to sell themselves as a trustworthy and desirable provider of goods and/or services before they can even engage in an email marketing campaign.

To sums things up: Its good Canada has an Anti-Spam Legislation but it won’t stop the SPAM we need it to stop. Instead it just causes more work for companies who were already trying to use best practice to market to costumers.

If you’re ready for July 1st, great! If not, get on it, right now. The key is to be informed and track all the efforts you take to ensure you are compliant, because as much as it sucks there is nothing we can do about it now.

Elite Email wrote up a great “survival guide” http://www.eliteemail.com/learning-center/casl/

If you’re looking for tools to help manage your emails and help ensure you’re compliant check out Elite Email, Hubzio or Mail Chimp.

 

Thanks for reading,

 

Sean

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