3 tips to avoid being the next company fined under CASL

Recent fines and compliance agreements under Canada’s anti-spam legislation CASL are helping to strengthen the e-mail market channel by penalizing behaviour that gives legitimate operators a bad name, according to one of the larger e-mail marketing firms in Canada.

Constant Contact provides an e-mail marketing and management platform for businesses and individuals that use e-mail for marketing purposes and Lisa Kember, regional director for Canada East at Constant Contact, said recent enforcement activity by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) points to the need for practitioners of e-mail marketing to take the CASL legislation seriously.

Dating website operator Plentyoffish Media Inc. agreed to pay $48,000 last week as part of a compliance agreement with the CRTC over alleged CASL violations regarding non-compliant unsubscribe mechanisms, and earlier in March Quebec-based technical training provider CompuFinder was fined $1.1 million for repeated CASL violations.

“The attitude in the market has either been gosh, we need to roll up our socks and comply with this, or on the other end, this will be another do not call list and who cares,” said Kember. “Our philosophy has been to help our clients understand the legislation and work to comply with it.”

Indeed, Kember said CASL just reinforced what was already standard business practice for Constant Contact; being very strict around permission and having systems in place to detect and deal with people that may try to use their platform for spamming. To address CASL specifically though, Constant Contact has added tools to help business and users obtain and document consent, including subscription and sign-up templates, update profile tools, and permission reminder links. When information is downloaded, users can see the consent status for each subscriber.

While CASL reinforces good business practices that any reputable e-mail marketing practitioner should practice, the compliance efforts can be onerous and may lead more companies to choose to work with e-mail marketing platforms such as Constant Contact.

“We’ve thought of (the enforcement actions) as a good news thing because nobody likes spammers,” said Kember. “Spammers hurt legitimate e-mail marketers. CASL has meant everyone has to pull up their socks and improve their approach to online marketing.”

Kember’s team has been travelling Canada holding seminars and other education campaigns to help raise awareness of CASL compliance, and she said she has three tips to help businesses avoid being the next CASL “what not to do” story.

  1. Have permission: “Make sure you have permission if you’re e-mailing people, either express or implied consent under the terms of the legislation. In most of the sessions I teach, I advise businesses to just ask for express consent up front. Sometimes it’s as simple as putting a process in place so when someone is purchasing a product you’re asking them to join a list. Typically, 50 per cent of people will agree to be on your list.”
  2. Respect the consent: “Once you have that consent, make sure you’re respecting that consent by sending them valuable information so you’re not just spamming them.”
  3. Follow the rules: “Make sure you comply with other requirements like offering people an opportunity to get off the list if they so choose, making sure you have all the contact information required and have the unsubscribe mechanism on every e-mail that goes out.”

“All (CASL) is doing is asking that we take a look at what we’re doing and make sure we’re compliant,” said Kember. “E-mail is still unmatched by any other marketing channel and reducing spam just makes it that much more valuable.”

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras
Jeff Jedras is a technology journalist with IT World Canada and a member of the IT Business team. He began his career in technology journalism in the late 1990s, covering the Ottawa technology sector for Silicon Valley North and the Ottawa Business Journal. He later covered the technology scene in Vancouver before joining IT World Canada in Toronto in 2005, covering enterprise IT for ComputerWorld Canada and the channel for Computer Dealer News. His writing has also appeared in the Vancouver Sun & the Ottawa Citizen.

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