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Is CASL a Hassle?

25 June

This week I have been busy helping clients understand and get ready for the new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, CASL.

There seems to be a lot of confusion about CASL out there. It’s not hard to understand why. Even trusted TV news shows are only giving you enough information to get you worried or confused.

The past few weeks I have been on webinars and learning more about CASL. This week I have spent hours on the phone with Constant Contact (expect 40 minutes on hold to get through to their CASL compliance desk this week and longer for the actual call), surfing through MailChimp’s and going though other mailing service provider’s CASL writings.

I am not a legal expert, nor am I an expert on CASL. For this reason, I am writing most of this in the first person. This is not advice but rather explanation of my experience, understanding of CASL and the process I have decided to implement in dealing with CASL.

When people ask “Are you prepared for CASL” what do they really mean?

What they are really asking is:

  • have you determined if your mailing list is made up of clients (think transactions / purchases) or prospects (think inquiries / quotes)?
  • have you requested that the recipients opt-in or re-opt in to your mailing list based on the relationships and timelines outlined in the CASL legislation? (Opt-in basically means to “join a list”. Opt-out means to “leave a list”)
  • if you can’t email some of the people from your list anymore, do you know how you will deal with it?

Understanding CASL

As a business manager it’s important to understand, under CASL you “must get consent prior to sending commercial email or have a pre-existing business relationship with a consumer”.

How “consent” and “pre-existing business relationship” are defined is what sets the foundation for understanding CASL. That’s pretty straight forward, isn’t it?

Main CASL points I am keeping in mind …

There are many considerations raised with the CASL legislation. To keep things simple, these are the main points I am focused on:

  • The difference between “Implied Consent” (informal / assumed) and “Express Consent” (formally or clearly verbally expressed and documented). These are two terms CASL uses for the types of permission a contact has given for you to email them. They are somewhat self explanatory.
  • CASL presumes that a contact (person) has implied they expect to receive correspondence from you for 6 months after discussing business (inquiry, quote etc) or for 24 months after making a transaction / purchase.
  • I can email the list between the times frames listed in the previous point based on the recipient’s “Implied Consent”. Before these times expire, I want to request and obtain “Express Consent” from the recipient which will allow continued emailing.

I am also keeping in mind that there are two key dates regarding CASL. They are:

  • July 1, 2014 … the date CASL goes into effect
  • July 1, 2017 … end of the Grace Period for CASL compliancy (when the Private Right of Action is enacted)

Please note: If you are emailing on behalf of a non-profit fundraising organization or political party, you may enjoy exceptions to some of the CASL legislation.

I decided to work more closely with Constant Contact on CASL because their webinar was very informative and they are launching a CASL opt-in process which they expected to have ready to roll this week. Besides that, some clients are familiar with the Constant Contact platform and I didn’t want to retrain them on another platform. Unfortunately, Constant Contact’s new CASL opt-in process will not be ready this week. I am told it will be ready next week (after the July 1st commencement date of CASL). Smart to have the bugs worked out before they release it.

So, after discussion with Constant Contact I decided to implement their “Soft Confirm” process this week, before July 1st, with part of the lists and mail the rest of the list next week (after CASL goes into effect) when the new CASL opt-in process is available.

We are dividing lists onto two mailings as follows:

A – This week – Before July 1st (pre-CASL) – We are emailing all clients who have not made a transaction in the past 24 months (cleints whose last purchase was over 2 years ago). These clients will receive a massage with a one click “Soft Confirm” button.

B – Next week – After June 30th (CASL) – We will email the clients who have made a purchase within the past 24 months. These clients will receive a notice using the new Constant Contact CASL Opt-in Process.

To my understanding, this process should be compliant for dealing with clients.

My main worry about CASL is NOT the fines …

… it’s the email recipients themselves. My main concern is that after July 1st, 2014 a people may start clicking their “Report as Spam” button en masse, whenever they receive an email that is not from family, friends and colleagues.

If your email address happens to be reported as spam too often, it may get black listed. This would severely reduce the deliverability of your future emails and email campaigns as your email messages will be much more likely to end up in the recipients’ spam filters or may not be delivered at all.

For this reason it’s a great idea to use an email automation service such as Constant Contact, MailChimp or aWeber where you can clearly measure the delivered and open rates to make sure your messages are getting through and you are not waisting your time, or money. These services will also provide you with an electronic record of opt-ins and opt-outs which will become important if you ever need to defend yourself based on possible CASL violations.

You can sign up for Constant Contact here. Yes, I’ll get a small commission which will help me maintain this site. If you want a discount on Constant Contact’s services send me a quick message. 

That said, unless they are blatantly abusing the CASL rules, many are saying they would be surprised to see fines levied on a traditional, mid-sized company or a mom and pop brick and mortar operation. I believe worrying about CASL itself is based on information from the wrong sources leading to misunderstanding, coupled with a lack of action taken to comply. My advice to clients is, let’s look at the legislation, understand it’s main intent, implement the rules to the best of our knowledge and most importantly, stop the worrying.

Like most things in life, if you follow basic rules, treat people with respect and add value, it’s hard to go wrong.

Does this help?

I hope my experience helps clear up some of the confusion. I have pasted some helpful links below. Please feel free to share your comments and feedback with me.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a legal expert, nor am I an expert on CASL. This is simply the way I am dealing with CASL.


CRTC – CASL Page with overview video

Government of Canada, CASL Q&A

Constant Contact

Mailing tools and internet marketing resources – Website Wishlist