Spam, spam, spam, spam…
The Vikings who invaded the café in the classic Monty Python sketch sang about it. And Canada is officially battling it―well, the electronic kind of spam that has nothing to do with canned meat, that is.
Canada’s Anti-Spam Law, known commonly by the acronym “CASL,” first went into effect in 2014, but will be fully enforced starting this summer. Are you ready?
The legislation brings many implications for marketers who are either Canadian or have Canadian business interests and ties. It affects their acquisitions programs and welcome tactics, list growth and hygiene, unsubscribe processes, social media practices, and more.
“As businesses prepare for the full enforcement of CASL on July 1, 2017, it’s more important than ever for marketers to understand their obligations under the legislation and ensure they have the full consent and unequivocal opt-ins from potential buyers,” said David Fowler, Head of Privacy & Compliance at Act-On Software.
Affected marketers need to make certain that their practices and policies are in full compliance ― or else risk harsh penalties. Both individuals and companies are liable for any messages they send.
The law applies to all Commercial Electronic Messages (CEMs) sent “by Canadian companies, to Canadian companies, or messages simply routed through Canadian servers.” CEMs are email or SMS messages such as texts, images, voice, sounds, and some social media (or even technologies that are not yet available), and are directed to electronic addresses and contain messages that encourage recipients to engage in some sort of commercial activity. CASL exempts communications sent via telephone or fax machines because they’re already regulated under Canada’s Telecommunications Act.
Many messages ― such as those sent for personal, charitable, legal, or informational purposes, among others ― do not fall under CASL’s jurisdiction. So it’s important for marketers to know the difference between exempt and non-exempt messages.
Under CASL, marketers may only send email to recipients who’ve given their consent to getting this communication. This “opt in” may be implied, such by the consumer engaging in a transaction with a company or by listing a telephone number or email address in a public directory. Records collected by marketers via implied consent have a time limit. In any case, senders must give recipients the option to stop receiving messages.
It’s little wonder many marketers with Canadian audiences are feeling a bit anxious about the law’s consequences and its impact on their programs and practices. These professionals need to, among other tasks:
- examine their data;
- know what penalties and enforcement consequences await those who fail to comply;
- understand exactly what constitutes a CEM;
- ensure they’re getting consent from subscribers and including disclosures when asking for that consent, and;
- create an appropriate unsubscribe process.
All of this is even more nerve-wracking if you don’t have good, experienced guidance along the way and a sound system in place to help you meet all CASL requirements.
“Act-On understands this concern, and continues to take steps to uphold only the highest possible standards for international compliance, data privacy and accessibility, and communication,” said Fowler.
If you’re in a Canadian organization or send promotional messages to Canadian businesses or individuals, it’s crucial that you find out if your marketing programs are in line with Canada’s anti-spam laws. Act-On offers a handy CASL compliance checklist that can help you do just that.
Express Consent Matters
Where should you begin? The first step is to determine if CASL rules apply to your programs. If so, you must obtain express consent for sending follow-up communications to any new contacts you make via a data capture method such as lead generation forms, as well as those gleaned through off-line tactics such as trade shows.
You probably already have a sizeable database of contacts that you regularly communicate with. It’s up to you to obtain and have documented express consent for your audience members in Canada. The laws states:
- For contacts acquired before July 1, 2014: Express consent must be acquired by July 1, 2017.
- For contacts captured after July 1, 2014: Express consent must be acquired within two years after they were initially collected.
This applies only if the contact doesn’t engage in a transaction or renew their business commitments including loans, subscriptions account, or contract.
Make it Easy to Unsubscribe
Once you’ve obtained express consent from your Canadian audience members to send ongoing communications, keep your emails in compliance by making sure you include a mechanism for people to unsubscribe easily, and at any time. You must “test” the unsubscribe mechanism regularly to ensure compliance; the one-click unsubscribe is the industry best practice.
Keep it Clean – Database Hygiene
Conducting sound database hygiene activities is a must to follow CASL. For example, you must build processes for purging individuals that are not engaged in your program. Not only will it help you stay compliant with the anti-spam laws, it will improve your marketing outcomes overall.
For every step along the way, Act-On can help you meet all your CASL needs. The company has already earned a TRUSTe Certification for its commitment to digital compliance. Additionally, Act-On received an EU-US Privacy Shield Certification from the US Department of Commerce and European Commission, and has prioritized CASL compliance in its product and beyond, regularly educating marketers on their responsibilities under CASL since the law was passed in 2014.
Hundreds of businesses in the Canada have made Act-On not just their marketing command center, but also their trusted advisor on the new communication landscape under CASL. Canadian marketers and businesses marketing to Canadian consumers benefit not only from the core technology Act-On offers, but also the support and services Act-On provides its clients to ensure they remain CASL-compliant marketers.
Using Marketing Automation for CASL Compliance
Act-On has made it easy and simple for marketers to stay CASL-compliant by using:
- Unsubscribe features, opt-in/out tracking, and communication permission preferences for list maintenance and hygiene.
- Adaptive Forms™ to inform new subscribers what they are signing up for and obtain express consent to communicate.
- Adaptive Segmentation™ to ensure any contact not opted in be excluded from communications by automatically adding the segment to a suppression list.
- List management capabilities that identify and pull accounts not opted-in into separate lists for account-based retargeting outside of the inbox.
“Trust and transparency are at the core of Act-On does,” said Fowler. “We’re in the business of helping other companies maximize value and cultivate lasting relationships, so it’s only right we commit just as much to our own customer relationships and provide our Canadian clients the support and stewardship they need to successfully navigate the CASL landscape.”
To find out more about how Act-On can help keep your marketing program running smoothly and in compliance with Canada’s anti-spam regulations:
6/12/2017 update: The government of Canada has suspended the private right of action that was due to become effective in July. Marketers, however, can still have legal action brought against them under the existing CASL regulations, but not by an individual.