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Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) – Watch Out!

  |   jim's digital lab

There are over 14.5 billion spam messages that hit email boxes around the world…EVERY DAY! 95% of that spam is sent by known spammers who use a variety of illegal means to push Viagra, Cialis, porn and illegal health care supplements to unsuspecting recipients. Most of the email recipients never signed up for it, don’t want it and don’t know how to opt-out of it since spammers don’t usually provide that option. In fact, when spammers DO show an opt-out option embedded in the email, it is merely used to reinforce to them that an email address is “active.” You are better off using your email service provider’s “Spam” button. This triggers a filter so that email from the same IP address is routed to a junk mail folder or deleted altogether.

Email Image for CASL Blog PostAs a result of massive spam complaints coming from email users, Internet Service Providers have taken it upon themselves to provide some frontline support for their customers. This includes the likes of Cox, Cablevision, Yahoo, AOL, CenturyLink and any other cable or telco involved in selling Internet access services, along with home-grown email services. These Internet Service Providers (ISPs) use spam filtering hardware/software suites that identify the most obvious IP addresses from which spam originates, and they work to block these inbound spam emails before it hits your box. Some email providers will literally delete the spam without moving it into your Junk Mail or “Bulk” folder. Other services flag what they believe to be spam, and make sure it does not hit your main inbox. However, these systems are not foolproof and 1%-2% of spam will actually make it into your main inbox.

As a result of the volume of spam we see today, the U.S. introduced CAN-SPAM federal legislation to protect U.S. consumers. Most of our clients do toe this line really, really well because there is a down-side to ignoring the law…large fines, messy judicial processes and a potential loss of reputation among your customers and your customer prospects. Let alone you might lose your right to send email through legitimate email service providers. Email service providers (Constant Contact, MailChimp, Vertical Response, ExactTarget, etc.) work closely with the ISPs to make sure that business customers know the rules concerning “opt-in” requirements, “opt-out” provisions, a prohibition of importing scraped or purchased lists of emails and other bad practices. The general rule of thumb is that you should NOT exceed 1 spam complaint per 1,000 emails sent. ESPs can and will shut down your email account if you exceed that level of spam. You can monitor the spam complaints against you via the ESP dashboards, so we recommend that you keep an eye on the complaint levels…just as you pay attention to the “open” rates, too!

We know that a lot of Scottsdale area golf visits and real estate sales are to Canadians due to their economic wealth and frequency of travel to the Lower 48. Canada passed new legislation in 2010 that had an extended roll-out over the last few years to give companies plenty of time to prepare their businesses to adhere to some very strict anti-spam laws. Some say it may be the strongest anti-spam law in the world. The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) will be official as of July 1, 2014, and will affect anyone who sends to or receives email in Canada. This includes email sent from the U.S. to Canadian citizens, not just Canadian companies emailing in-country. It also affects Social Media marketing and other forms of digital content as well. But, the biggest target for Canadian officials is email spam. The Canadian Chamber of Commerce has produced a very enlightening PowerPoint presentation that covers the CASL legislation in significant detail. If you have any concerns or questions, this is one of the better presentations I’ve seen to help you through this so you don’t run afoul of the law.

Communication Links’ clients need to be aware of these new laws, whether we do or do not advise you about your email marketing efforts. If you manage these programs yourself, please ensure that your staff or outside service providers emailing into Canada on your behalf are aware of your responsibilities for adhering to the law. We’ve summarized CASL below:

Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation — Things You Need to Know

  • If you aren’t already doing so, any unsubscribe requests that come to you via a reply to your email must be honored immediately. Many consumers may not respond to the “Opt-Out” link in the emails, and instead will “reply” to your email with a “please remove my name” request. You must honor those even if you must manually remove them from your list database one by one.
  • Unsubscribe requests never expire. You must honor all opt-out requests indefinitely, regardless of future mailing services you may use, unless you receive a new explicit opt-in request for that email address.
  • Make sure that your email campaign’s “Subject” line is straightforward and not misleading. A marketer cannot advertise “Everything 50% off” in the subject line and then only offer 25% off in the message below. This is enticing the recipient to open the message under false pretenses and against the CASL law. Best practice is to be truthful and consistent in both the subject line and contents of the message.
  • You need to include a legitimate postal address in your email campaigns. Almost all email service providers require that you add a physical address before you can schedule a campaign: make sure this address is a valid physical postal address for your company or golf course. This requirement is true of the U.S. CAN-SPAM law, as well as CASL.
  • Email addresses obtained with “implied permission” must be removed after 2 years unless explicit permission to email them has been received.
  • The email marketer must maintain an audit trail as to how and when you obtained consent. The best practice is to record as much information as possible on how consent was obtained. If challenged by regulators (or Canadian court) the burden of proof for consent is on the sender, not the recipient.

 
If you have any questions about how CASL might affect you, please give us a call or drop me an email at JMartin@commlinks.com.