A recent article in the Toronto Star suggests that Canada’s new Anti-Spam law is in limbo as a number of business groups seek exceptions. Read the full article here.
Various business groups claim that the requirements to obtain user consent before sending commercial email would create enormous barriers to conduct business online. Several groups seeking exceptions include the Financial Advisors Association of Canada and the Entertainment Software Association of Canada. Other submissions call on the government to eliminate consent requirements altogether for small and start-up businesses.
The Canadian Marketing Association apparently told its members that the government is now delaying the implementation of CASL Bill C-28 until the middle of 2012 at the earliest. Interestingly enough, Industry Minister Christian Paradis has remained silent on the issue.
So, yes, on the one hand CASL aims to protect Canadians from unwanted spam and phishing scams, but will it be to the detriment of how Canadians currently conduct business online?
The legislation will have a significant impact on all Canadian businesses using electronic messages to promote their activities or to contact past or prospective clients. Existing mass email marketing lists will need to be purged of all contacts for which the company is unable to prove they obtained the address with full consent.
The questions many companies have now is what to do with their existing lists? One of Mezzanine’s Outsourced Marketing clients currently has a list that contacts over 10,000 contacts.
How are Email Service Providers stepping up to the plate to help companies comply?
Many companies like MailChimp, ConstantContact or GraphicMail for instance will most likely amend their email and permission gathering policies in light of any new legislation, but this will simply be for collecting addresses going forward. This law essentially forces marketers to apply opt-in based systems in order to obtain express consent. Features such as single opt-in or double opt-in mechanisms added to the subscription process going forward will ensure that any email address collected going forward will comply. Unless of course the law requires consent “in writing” which would add yet another layer of complexity. Many business and consumer groups argue that this is unnecessary since electronic or verbal consents should be equally valid.
Again, what to do with existing lists?
Perhaps you had a business relationship with a customer 3 years ago. With the new law, this fact alone is not enough to continue sending marketing messages to that contact. Many Email Service Providers I have since spoken with that the onus lays on the individual marketer themselves and would mean that they would have to rely on using their own Outlook email for example to obtain fresh express consent.
That’s fine and well for a few hundred contacts. But what about those companies whose email marketing contacts lists are in the 10’s of thousands? It will be interesting to see how the new law takes shape in the coming year.
For background information on CASL, please read my previous post:
I invite you to comment on this issue.