Email Marketing after Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)
This is a guest post by Eric Thomas. Eric is a blogger and Brand Manager for Brandme.com.au. He enjoys sharing marketing and business tips and ideas for all sized businesses.
Over to Eric…
Canada just passed a very stringent new law called Canada Anti-Spam Legislation. It is abbreviated CASL and sounds like “castle” in speaking terms. CASL went into effect July 1, 2014. Some of the restrictions are immediate and others go into effect in the coming months and years. Why does this new law apply to Australian businesses?
It actually applies to any business in every country. Even though this is a Canadian law, it pertains to any business in any country sending commercial email or any digital communications to Canadian residents. That means that the steep penalties they put in place will be enforced. The other reason why this is raising the eyebrows of email marketers all over the world is because this is an “opt in” policy rather than an “opt out” email policy like the current ones in place including Can SPAM.
Opt In vs. Opt Out Policy
Recipients must opt in to receive email and digital communications. Rather than being allowed to send an email and then having to remove email addresses upon request, companies and individuals must obtain permission prior to sending email or any other digital communications. This means that even if it is a consumer that does business with you, you still may not automatically add their email to your newsletter. That is called implied consent, and according to the new CASL law, you need to have expressed consent and you must be able to prove that you have been given consent to send digital communications to Canadian customers or clients.
You cannot even have an auto-checked box that includes customers into your newsletter. Instead, you can have a box to check during your online checkout process, but the customer must be able to check the box to indicate that they want to receive email and/or digital communications from your company. If they do not check the box, you may only send emails or communications in relation to the transaction. For example, you can send emails that are the order confirmation, a receipt, shipping and tracking information, and follow up regarding that order only.
Exceptions to the Rule
There are a few exceptions to CASL that allows your business or organization to be able to send email or other digital communications through implied consent.
1. If you have done business with the recipient within the previous 2 years, including purchasing a product, making a business deal, party to a contract, or membership with your organization, then you can send communications up through that 24 month period. In order to continue send emails after that point, you must get consent before the 24 month period expires.
2. If you are a registered charity or political organization that has received a donation or a gift from the recipient or they have volunteered for or attended a meeting organized by your organization, then you may send them electronic communications.
3. You may still send emails to a recipient in a professional or official capacity if they have not told you they did not want to receive unsolicited messages.
4. Businesses that have been sending emails or other digital communications to newsletter recipients have until July 1, 2017 to get compliant with the consent requirements outlined in the legislation.
Penalties for Violating Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation
As we mentioned above, there are some extremely stiff penalties for sending unsolicited emails that are in violation of the new law. Companies can be fined up to $10 million if reported and cannot show proof of expressed consent. Individuals can be fined up to $1 million if reported and cannot show proof of expressed consent.
Besides the fact that these penalties are in place, companies must realize that not partaking in best practices does not result in effective email campaigns or happy customers and clients. If any email legislation is a big problem for your company, then you really need to rethink your marketing strategy.
What Are Your Next Steps?
If you have not already done so, it is time to start acquiring expressed consent for the subscribers on your email list. If you can segment your list to Canadian residents, then you only need to get expressed consent from those email addresses. However, once you see if levels of engagement or conversion increase, you might consider this policy for your entire email and digital communication subscriber list.
You must keep a record of the express consent given. If you cannot prove expressed consent, you must then reacquire it. Any email service company that you use to send commercial emails will have the proper tools you need to help you get in compliance and stay that way moving forward.