Businesses are looking to get ahead of the game by seeking explicit consent from email contacts before Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) comes into effect July 1.

Designed to cut down on the amount of unwanted email received by Canadians, CASL requires that companies either have explicit or implied consent to email a contact about business matters. Express consent means a contact has specifically agreed to receive emails from a business, and implied consent means that some sort of pre-existing business relationship exists – for example, a contract is signed. But with the implied consent expiring after two years (or in some just cases six month), many businesses are looking to move as many contacts into the “explicit consent” column as possible. Also, it’s likely that many businesses aren’t even clear on what contacts they have explicit consent for and are confirming with all their contacts to be certain.

The irony is that sending an email request for confirmation of consent could be considered spam after CASL takes effect. A business could ask someone in the “implied consent” category for express consent, but not someone it had no point of contact with. After CASL takes effect, businesses will have a three year grace period to confirm consent in this way. Any express consent collected before CASL comes into effect will be recognized.

Still, proactive business minders like Shawn Freeman, president of Calgary-based TWT Group are getting started now. He sent out an email to his list of contacts for his IT services firm in May. The email simply explained that because of CASL, the firm needed to confirm that the recipient wanted to continue receiving email from the company. Clicking on a “Confirm Consent” brought the recipient to a web form to complete by filling in their information. Then another email was sent to double-confirm the correct email address was used.

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“It makes sense from a business perspective. We can start to use our e-mail list more effectively and we an tell who wants to see our stuff,” he says. “It’s hard to know if what you’re writing is worthy.”

Freeman uses the email list to send out notice of new blog posts. As his practice was to sometimes manually add people he met to the list, he knew he had to take action to be CASL compliant. But he’s taking the approach that doing so is actually a good business practice and if he finds that people don’t want to receive his emails, he has opportunity to change his tactics.

“We’ll be tailoring our content and I think there’s some benefits to that,” he says. “It helps us focus.”

Freeman will also be adding a line to his email signature that gives people he’s communicating with an option to subscribe to his mailing list. He’s confident that three years from now he’ll have a fully verified list and be in a good place for CASL compliance, when the grace period ends. Freeman didn’t come up with all the tactics to prepare for CASL on his own, his lawyer advised him it was important, so he followed the example set by the Business Development Bank of Canada (BDC) and other law firms going through the process because he liked the approach.

BDC similarly took a direct approach with its email recipients, saying it is required to obtain consent for email as a result of CASL.

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Ford of Canada took a slightly different tack with its CASL compliance efforts. It gives away 10 free entries to win a 2015 Ford Mustang for giving your consent. While CASL is not explicitly mentioned, you can see that the contest rules are under the “CASL” sub-directory of Ford’s website. There’s no double opt-in in Ford’s process, just one click of a button to pass on express consent.

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Toronto-based digital agency Delvinia took a more humorous approach to its CASL compliance efforts. Along with an opt-in button, recipients could also click through to take a quiz to test their CASL knowledge. It poses questions like “Will I be able to opt-out of those work emails from that creepy guy in accounting?” The quiz ends with asking if you’d like to remain on the Delvinia contact list in order to see the correct answers.

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  • Semiotic

    This is like saying that “put a muzzle on the vendor”. This law celebrates the virtue of wallowing in ignorance. It doesn’t need cheerleaders.

    Imagine this metaphor: You own a tomato kiosk in a marketplace. The government says that few people think that shouting out “tomatoes- 10 cents” is disruptive. So they rule that announcing your tomatoes is now restricted to those who told you they want tomatoes. Then further- they insist that asking for that permission is also restricted.

    The only one who benefits is the 1 st kiosk.

    In Canada- for all practical purposes- that ‘1 st vendor beneficiary” is the internet service providers- who, under this law, will automatically gain “implied consent” by virtue of monthly billing. Only utilities will have that much billing power, and they are concentrated.

    Monthly billers will have a halo of recurring virtue sown upon them like fairy dust.

    They are under the ‘control’ of the CRTC. No surprise this law was written to benefit the few- as the fallacy of a pro business conservative platform reveals itself – as this is the most anti-business aw ever introduced in North America. It is pro BELL, pro Rogers, pro Telus.

    These firms will now create broadcast e mail businesses and act as ‘permission gatekeeper’ for thousands of small businesses reduced to serfdom. Some “conservative” agenda huh?

    Many businesses are ENTIRELY reliant on e-mail broadcasting to advertise their wares. It has emerged as a disruptive (to big media) and productive (to the economy) highly democratising vehicle to allow businesses to grow along a public utility– affectionately called the Information Super Highway.

    Now the highway benefits the coddled partners of the corrupt CRTC. If the CRTC was not corrupt- it would have defended the rights of access to this utility for all canadians equally. Rather- it has chosen to become the enforcer- with threats of – get this> MILLION DOLLAR FINES!

    Business insurance cost will skyrocket based on the risk of a single error inciting a fine or lawsuit. This is a BIG deal.

    Foreign businesses- well sheltered by distance and jurisdiction, will fill your in box with non Canadian offers. Their businesses will grow while our tax base shrinks.

    I ‘ll simplify my metaphor:

    Your sister will lose her job! Because the shop she works at can’t risk sending out valentine’s day invites to get a haircut. An e mail is about 4 cents a unit to send. A postal equivalent is about 50 cents.

    Imagine products that have a long buying cycle. like a car, a brake job, a muffler – or dishwasher, or a training seminar- this law says that even an established customer is not addressable after a couple of months. You will not receive renewal notices, product upgrade notices or change of addresses of your favorite vendors. Some products – such as training- o subscriptions to newsletters – in practice require dozens of e mail invites to make viable aggregation of demand in your market. If you think training is expensive now- wait until all demand is funneled through a legal death ring- it will only be practical to be trained in large cities. So add travel costs to each offer that manages to navigate the judiciary risk posed by this law. That may sound convaluted- but this law will favour those who can afford expensive compliance- and price out all sorts of micro businesses. 70 % of jobs in Canada are in micro businesses. If you think welfare is expensive now- wait until you muzzle the brake shops, the muffler shops, the hairdressers, the trainers …..

    A conservative government just shut down e-commerce, while purporting that these new industries are the future.

    Did you know they excluded political parties from the penalties?

    Convenient huh?

    All of you with full inboxes- consider for a minute that it isn’t all that annoying to receive an offer of services. In fact – you are probably ignorant of many alternative offers. This law will make you even more ignorant.

    Consider also – that the ‘spirit of the law’ of this abomination- is that offers of hair extensions are a pressing governance issue- and that eradicating them will boost the economy. The government- a CONSERVATIVE government- found nothing better to do than to protect your inbox from offers that annoy you. Yessir- your tax dollars at work.

    Those who read this who have an independant business- consider that lawmakers, bureaucrats and enforcers had to be marshalled over a period of years to organise this.

    This has cost millions already!

    They will all retire with golden pensions, while you retire with duct tape over your mouth.

    In case you think I am talking party politics- forget it- I regret I supported this corrupt government. I know many, frustrated with hair extension pollution, will disagree with me – especially if you are reliant on a government cheque- you will fear that expressing dissent will hamper your career. The omnipresence of government in every aspect of our economy has that power – to make sheep (serfs) of us all.

    growth REQUIRES an open marketplace.

    I am also saddened by the popular ignorance of the real underlying issue and it’s ramifications. My taxes support an army of economists who should have written what I just did- where are they>?

    My taxes support INDUSTRY CANADA. Where are they to support the right of free speech in commerce? I want every cent of their pensions and salaries remitted to me as a tax credit.

    The head of the Canadian small business federation was so lame in a recent radio interview- I had to shake my head in shame that she didn’t understand the basis of small business marketing in the 21 st century. She didn’t grasp the competitive dis-advantage.

    Business journalist are even worse- (except you, Brian) – they missed this completely. The issue of the century.

    Your inbox is full – quick- call the feds!

  • Dave Dunn

    @Semiotic:disqus – I think you’re missing a lot of the point. CASL wasn’t put in to disrupt legitimate businesses from sending out emails, it’s just to ensure that businesses are only sending communications to those that have signed up for it. If it means it will cut down on the amount of spam that I receive because Rogers or Bell or insert-company-here chose to sell my email address to insert-company-here, I’m all for it. If it means that Industry Canada/CRTC are going to go after the ‘spammers’ that send notes about Nigerian dead man passing on 100-million pounds to me, or emailing my grandma that her bank account has been hacked and asking her to change her password, or that someone thinks I need Viagra or Cialis, I’m all for it.

    I’ve signed up to receive newsletters from legitimate businesses and wish to continue receiving them. But I can do without the random spam I get from companies that are ‘cold calling’ me telling me about their tomato kiosk. That’s not email marketing, that’s spamming. Whether it’s June 26 or July 1, if they don’t have consent to email me, they shouldn’t be. That tomato kiosk should put an email acquisition strategy to market and do some online advertising to pull in new contacts – not spamming people.

    My big question is, why are all of these ‘big companies’ sending out the ‘click here to provide consent’ emails? Is their data that muddy that they don’t know when I signed up or how they came to have my email address in their database? Or are they just being really cautious because the threat of $10-million fines has them shaking in their boots?

    I work for a larger retail organization and we’ve opted to NOT send out those ‘seeking consent’ messages. We have express or implied consent for all of our customers. Those that are labeled as implied will need to be converted to express before July 1, 2017. There’s no need for us to rush out to do that now. Our data is really clean with all of the details of when a customer provided us their consent and whether it came from a store (POS) or through an online form. We have no reason to mitigate that data and risk losing half of our email database just because someone was on vacation and didn’t provide that additional consent that companies are sending out now.

  • Jim Love

    Unfortunately, CASL does disrupt legitimate businesses. It adds to the their costs and makes for greater complexity and greater cost. I’m particularly sensitive to the challenges faced by small businesses and startups in particular. Their constant challenge is to find new customers. Adding any cost or complexity at all is just wrong.

    Will one less Nigerian Prince or one less phishing email come to me because of CASL? No.

    Is CASL solving a real problem? Not really. Spam filters are pretty good these days and frankly, if someone is annoying all you have to do is flag them as spam. In a day or two, if they annoy enough people, their mail reputation score will have them blocked from email boxes.

    Will CASL ensure legitimate businesses will not get their message to me? Will it add cost and complexity to an already challenged small business? Without question. We have three people who have studied CASL and we still had to go out to high priced legal counsel. We’ve also had to make system changes. How does a small startup cope with this?

    Given that most jobs are created by small business in Canada, do we really want to hurt them in any way?

    Just asking….

    • Dave Dunn

      Jim, when you speak of the challenges for small businesses and startups, how were they previously communicating with customers? Were they buying email lists and blasting out to random people that may or may not be interested in their product? Obviously buying those lists were adding a level of cost. And it could be diminishing their ‘brand’ by having people be annoyed with them off the hop. How else were they getting their message/business to the masses? Likely those other marketing initiatives would still be in play – CASL hasn’t affected those.

      You’re right, spam filters are pretty good these days, but not everyone uses them or understands them. I’m talking about people like my parents. They see an email from a bank and think that it’s legitimate because the ‘spammers’ are getting so crafty by adding in the appropriate fonts and images to make it look like an official newsletter or release. They don’t know to scroll over the link included to see what the target URL is and that it’s going to a Russian site, likely capturing their password information. I do believe that we, as Canadians, will start seeing less Nigerian Prince and/or phishing emails. If it keeps one person from losing their life savings to a phishing scam, I think it’s worth it. That is a legitimate problem.

      So businesses have to maintain records of who has provided them consent to send emails – really, they should have been doing that anyways. Everything else is likely already being adhered to (unsubscribe, identifying your company in the email, etc.) I think CASL for email purposes is pretty basic – get adequate (express) consent from your subscribers, maintain a database with those parameters, ensure your messaging isn’t misleading and provide an unsubscribe mechanism & identification in your emails. Pretty simple. Not sure how a company would incur any additional charges because of those parameters.

  • Dave Dunn

    Jim, when you speak of the challenges for small businesses and startups, how were they previously communicating with customers? Were they buying email lists and blasting out to random people that may or may not be interested in their product? Obviously buying those lists were adding a level of cost. And it could be diminishing their ‘brand’ by having people be annoyed with them off the hop. How else were they getting their message/business to the masses? Likely those other marketing initiatives would still be in play – CASL hasn’t affected those.

    You’re right, spam filters are pretty good these days, but not everyone uses them or understands them. I’m talking about people like my parents. They see an email from a bank and think that it’s legitimate because the ‘spammers’ are getting so crafty by adding in the appropriate fonts and images to make it look like an official newsletter or release. They don’t know to scroll over the link included to see what the target URL is and that it’s going to a Russian site, likely capturing their password information. I do believe that we, as Canadians, will start seeing less Nigerian Prince and/or phishing emails. If it keeps one person from losing their life savings to a phishing scam, I think it’s worth it. That is a legitimate problem.

    So businesses have to maintain records of who has provided them consent to send emails – really, they should have been doing that anyways. Everything else is likely already being adhered to (unsubscribe, identifying your company in the email, etc.) I think CASL for email purposes is pretty basic – get adequate (express) consent from your subscribers, maintain a database with those parameters, ensure your messaging isn’t misleading and provide an unsubscribe mechanism & identification in your emails. Pretty simple. Not sure how a company would incur any additional charges because of those parameters.