With Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) slated to go into force soon, businesses will no longer be able to send commercial electronic messages like emails and text messages to their customers, unless they have explicit consent.

It’s a sea change for the world of marketing, and we wanted to help businesses prepare for it by hosting the #beCASLready chat. Thanks to everyone who participated, especially our guest experts, John Lawford, executive director of the Public Interest Advocacy Centre (@CanadaPIAC), and Bret Conkin, chief marketing officer at FundRazr (@bretconkin).

Read below to see what people were tweeting about:

  •  Q1. What is the goal of CASL?

As many Twitter chat participants observed, CASL is slated to prevent spamming and privacy invasions in Canada, as well as to foster good business practices. After all, businesses sending mass emails to customers is not necessarily a way to drive sales, and consumers want to see a drop in the amount of spam, as well as to maintain a modicum of control over commercial email.

However, as ITWorldCanada.com editor Howard Solomon observed, Canadian laws may not do much to prevent spam from landing in our inboxes, when the source of the spam is headquartered in other countries.

  • Q2. When do we expect CASL to go into force?

At the time of this chat, most participants agreed CASL would go into force by fall 2014. Since then, the federal government has announced it will be in force on July 1, 2014.

  • Q3. What are the most crucial parts of CASL that businesses need to know about and comply with?

Q2 - PIAC

Q3 - Bret Conkin

  •  Q4. What are the biggest implications of CASL for businesses?

The biggest implication of CASL is that businesses have to seek permission from their customers to continue to send them messages. Communicating online carries severe repercussions if businesses do it badly, noted Bret Conkin of FundRazr.

To get that permission, businesses need to explicitly ask, and avoid just giving customers pre-checked boxes on forms, PIAC said.

Conkin added businesses should make sure they can prove they’ve received permission by capturing IP addresses, timestamps, as well as identifying a consent mechanism. Plus, marketers should carefully segment their databases.

  • Q5. What can businesses do to prepare for CASL?

To get in shape for CASL, businesses should take stock of their databases, go through existing consents, and identify exceptions, Conkin said. They should also ensure they’ve robustly managed their data, upgraded express consents, and ensured they’ve been compliant with people who have chosen to unsubscribe – and last but not least, they should audit their social media messages. Essentially, it comes down to managing lists properly, he added.

  • Q6. How can businesses maintain relationships with customers and start new ones with CASL coming into force?

Q6 - Bret Conkin

 

  • Q7. What kinds of third-party services can companies turn to?

Third-party services can help businesses deliver their messages, while using the latest technology, Conkin observed. Some of the services named included MailChimp for campaigns, SendGrid for transactions, iContact, Benchmark, PinPointe, Constant Contact, Campaigner, Selligent, GetResponse, and Mailigen.

  • Q8. What are some good strategies to elicit consent from customers, in light of CASL?

Q8 - PIAC

Q8 - Brian Jackson

In asking for consent, PIAC also recommended avoiding offering customers deals or coupons to encourage them to opt in. The reality is, they would only give consent to get things – and they would probably revoke it soon afterwards, PIAC noted.

  • Q9. What kinds of penalties can businesses expect for flouting CASL?

Q9 - Bret Conkin

While the prospect of a $10 million penalty sounds huge, most Twitter chat participants agreed the federal government would likely give businesses a warning first. Then they might get a notice of violation, a small fine, and then potentially a bigger one, if the businesses were to continue to break the regulations surrounding CASL.

There’s a lot of fear around CASL, said one chat participant – however, the government has noted there will be a soft transition period.

  • Q10. Can you share any tips for small businesses that need to be mindful of CASL?

Q10 - Brian Jackson

Businesses also need to remember texts, social media notifications, instant messages, and computer programs all fall under CASL regulations, Conkin said.

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