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Read on to get a snapshot of how the email marketing landscape in Canada has changed, and what you can do to ensure CASL compliance.
Are you unfamiliar with CASL? It was put in place to “protect Canadians while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete in the global marketplace”, and it affects organizations that send commercial electronic messages (which eventprofs typically do). The law stipulates that you need to have 3 things: the recipient’s consent, to identify yourself, and to offer an unsubscribe mechanism.
The maximum fine for businesses that break these rules is $10 million. Sanctions can vary depending on the degree of the offence, and the good news is there are no automatic fines issued. Still, it’s better to be safe than sorry: a Quebec company was fined $1.1 million in 2015. That case demonstrated that collecting emails in a dishonest way (using address-harvesting software of some sort) and not keeping detailed records that prove your subscribers’ consent are bound to get you into trouble.
Marketers struggled to adapt to the new laws and some businesses felt the urge to resend a request for consent to their entire list or worse, destroy their subscriber list and start over, which was unnecessary in the majority of cases. While there were grumblings from marketers about CASL hurting their competitiveness, there’s been a 37% reduction in global spam originating from Canada since the law was passed.
Rogers Media, Porter Airlines, and Vancouver-based PlentyOfFish were the next organizations to receive fines for CASL compliance violations. A new law under CASL was introduced in 2015 regarding businesses installing software on other people’s computers, in an effort to combat malware. In December 2015, this law provided the means for a botnet takedown in Toronto to put a dent in the distribution of Dorkbot malware that affected over 1 million PCs worldwide.
In August 2016, Kellogg Canada Inc. paid a $60,000 fine after a third party sent emails on its behalf without the required consent, underlining the importance of keeping detailed records of express and implied consent. The definition of implied consent was challenged for the first time in October 2016 when Blackstone Learning Solutions Group was fined $640,000 for mass-emailing employees of government institutions using publicly available email addresses. The company may have had implied consent, but having no records of where and when the emails were collected, as well as no proof of relevancy or potential withdrawal statements, is unlawful. After the appeal, the fine was reduced to $50,000.
Here are some key things to remember about CASL in relation to your event marketing efforts. Firstly, if the CRTC is to investigate you, they will take your intentions into consideration. Demonstrating your willingness and efforts to comply with the law is very important, and can be proven through marketing plans that outline how you obtain your contacts, as well as staff training plans. When it comes to promotional eblasts, the opt-in language you use needs to be clear and transparent, and you must respect the 10 day deadline to cease sending emails if someone unsubscribes. You also need to implement an accurate, real-time storage system that allows you to prove each and every opt-in, updating the current status of each individual as their circumstances change. This should show where they came from and record complaints/resolutions.
With more than half of marketers saying they would increase email marketing budgets in 2017, and the consistent ROI it delivers, the temptation to grow subscriber lists to enormous levels and blast promos at will has been high for much of the 21st century. CASL was introduced to thwart the efforts of spammers in Canada in hopes of curing email clutter for the average consumer. You may not consider yourself a spammer as an event marketer, but CASL applies to you nonetheless. While you may perceive CASL compliance as one big headache, we want to encourage you to take the time to be discriminate about your email lists. Not only will your marketing efforts be in line with Canadian legislation, but your brand stands to benefit considerably as your open and click-through rates improve!
What follows is a deep dive on the ins and outs of CASL as laid out in the CASL Compliance eBook:
Still unsure about a specific CASL provision, or need help in becoming CASL compliant? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us!