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Get Your Facts Straight About CASL: What Email Marketers Need to Know About Canada’s Anti Spam Legislation

Last July, Canada’s Anti Spam Legislation (CASL) came into effect, and it recently received another update in January 2015. If you don’t have a full service email marketing agency keeping track of this for you, you need to keep yourself up to date on this legislation. Though most people are under the impression that the law has been implemented to combat spam, it has been designed to do much more. In fact, CASL is the unofficial acronym given to the law, the official name is “An Act to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy by regulating certain activities that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities, and to amend the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission Act, the Competition Act, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act and the Telecommunications Act”, and it’s been implemented to put a stop to the following:

  • Collection of email addresses without consent
  • Phishing scams and ambiguous practices for obtaining personal information
  • Deceptive practices for installing malware and spyware
  • Distribution of unsolicited commercial messages sent electronically.

If an email marketer has clients in Canada, it’s important for them to be aware of the limitations CASL has in place to avoid the heavy-handed penalty imposes.

You Must Have Consent.

Obtaining consent to send commercial message to a client is the first of three requirements outlined by CASL. Requiring consent—and the government expects you to keep records of when and how consent is received—has been enacted as an attempt to cut down unsolicited messages. Canadian Legal FAQs has a comprehensive explanation of the various degrees and definitions for consent.

Moreover, email marketers who are using a pop up window or a designated space on the website for gathering email addresses for newsletters and other commercial messages need to be aware that if it includes a checkbox, the checkbox cannot be pre-checked. This is because businesses can no longer assume consent, and the pre-checked box is considered an assumption. However, a blank checkbox is acceptable under CASL.

You Must Provide Identifying Information.

CASL also requires senders to identify themselves and/or their organization to recipients. In addition to giving your actual name and email address, you must also provide a mailing address and phone number. In alignment with the requirement of truthful identification, the content of the message can be neither false nor misleading; all email addresses, links, and other metadata in the electronic message cannot be spoofed.

You Must Offer Recipients a Convenient Way to Unsubscribe.

The persons you send your commercial messages to must be able to unsubscribe from the broadcasts in the same format the message was sent. Therefore, email marketers must provide a place to remove themselves from the list or manage their subscriptions on every email.

More Important Information About CASL for Email Marketers

Though the three main prongs of CASL are consent, clear identification, and option to unsubscribe, email marketers should dig further into the legislation to determine other ways they need to modify commercial messages.

Liability for Forwarding Emails to Others

Email marketers may be interested to know that there is a clause that addresses who is held responsible when an email is forwarded. If the person doing the emailing has a personal relationship with whom the email is forwarded to, then CASL has not been violated. However, if the email contains a message that entices readers to share with others, this could be considered an infringement. Strict interpreters of the legislation recommend disclosing the person receiving this message maintains a personal relationship—but it’s more of a CYA, since enforcement of CASL thus far has been scant.

Cost of and Liability for a CASL Infraction

Those found guilty of a CASL violation are subjected to an administrative monetary penalty (AMP) that can be up to $1 million per charge for individuals and $10 million for businesses.

Sure the costs of CASL violations seem comically hyperbolic, considering over these past months, there have been no instances of prosecution mentioned in the news, and chatter over this legislation is at best a murmur. Until a major case makes headlines, CASL will continue to be a sleeping giant. However, just because CASL isn’t being enforced heavy-handedly doesn’t mean email marketers should ignore the law.

Successful marketing campaigns most often rely on cultivating a quality audience, and sheer volume of recipients doesn’t always translate into more conversions. Furthermore, you should always be upfront and honest when crafting messages; after all, you should strive to develop a relationship with your clients built on trust, and this involves giving them the ability to unsubscribe from messages at any time. Don’t abide by CASL just because it’s the law—abide by it because you’re an ethical email marketer that believes in treating clients with honesty and integrity.

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