CASL: What you need to know about Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

Business owners have a lot of options in front of them when it’s time to promote sales, drive traffic to their website, or reach out to customers. Despite the power of social media, there is no question that email still plays a big part in marketing and sales campaigns, and it works incredibly well in getting customers, and leads, interested in new opportunities with your business.

Email Questions Answered

Business owners have a lot of options in front of them when it’s time to promote sales, drive traffic to their website, or reach out to customers. Despite the power of social media, there is no question that email still plays a big part in marketing and sales campaigns, and it works incredibly well in getting customers, and leads, interested in new opportunities with your business.

That’s why Canada’s new anti-spam legislation, or CASL (pronounced “castle” by many), is raising eyebrows for many businesses who are unsure how the law impacts their email newsletters or what they need to do since the law comes into effect, for commercial electronic messages, tomorrow, on July 1, 2014.

With that deadline in mind, if you or your business have not started complying with the new rules, you definitely need to start, so I’ve put together some basic information to help you plan for the new law.

First of all, it’s worth noting that I am not a lawyer, and none of what I’m about to explain is official legal advice. As a web developer, however, I can tell you a few best practices, and help you understand the basics of CASL.

The first thing to realize is that the anti-spam legislation has its challenges, but it’s also represents what should be considered good business practices. The new rules are intended to deal with spam by ensuring that people not only explicitly choose what they receive by email, but also that they can easily leave that subscriber list at any time.

If you’ve ever received unwanted marketing phone calls when you’re having dinner, you can likely understand why this rule is necessary. Prior to these rules, I’ve been on multiple lists that had signed me up, but didn’t offer me an easy way to leave them.

So, how do I comply with CASL?

Compliance essentially means that businesses need to use a newsletter system going forward–one that allows customers, or potential customers, to explicitly opt-in to communications, and to cancel their subscription at any time.

For businesses who have managed their email lists using a simple spreadsheet of information, it is possible to comply with the requirements of CASL, but it is much simpler to use a system like MailPoet (for WordPress), or Campaign Monitor. By using solutions like these, customers can sign up for your newsletter on your website, and in each email they can click on a link to unsubscribe.

What if I don’t comply by July 1, 2014?

Technically, July 1 is the first deadline you need to be aware of for CASL, but there’s a second one; July 1, 2017. Where there is “an existing business or non-business relationship”, implied consent is considered to be given to businesses unless the customer indicates that they wish to leave the newsletter list.

During this transition period, businesses need to seek out express consent from their customers.

Businesses should be aware, however, whether or not they have anyone on their emails lists who they have never done business with. For those who have harvested email addresses from lists created by other companies, or taken email addresses off of websites, you could be found in violation of CASL.

What is I don’t comply with CASL?

For individuals who violate the new law, there is a maximum fine of up to $1 million, and businesses can face fines up to $10 million per violation. There are a number of factors that will determine the fines levied for infractions, but it’s still obvious that it’s not worth risking the fine just to maintain a large email list.

What do I do next?

The first step is to set up a newsletter system for your future communications, and then ask your existing clients or contacts to sign up using the new system. Many companies are handling this by setting up a special sign-up page for their newsletter and sending out a link to that page through their existing email list. This strategy is also helpful in that you are not bringing old contacts into the new system.

Where can I get more information on CASL?

The Government of Canada has extensive resources available for businesses and individuals. Here are a few of the main resources you should review to better understand the law and its implications:

How Phoenix Gate Studio can help you and your business.

Phoenix Gate Studio can help you make the most of your email communications, and we can make sure you comply with all of the new rules under CASL. Whether you need a built-in solution for your website, or are ready for a third-party solution to manage your email newsletters, we can help you not only with compliance, but by making your newsletter grab the attention of your readers, and giving your company an easy-to-use system that is quick and efficient.

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Author: W. Andrew Powell

Website developer, entrepreneur, photographer, and entertainment junkie.

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