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CASL – what does it really mean to your business?

CASL stands for the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, which is now almost finalized and will come into force in 2014. There are various articles about this law and its details, but when it comes to the point, “What does this mean to your business?” all of these articles more or less leave many questions open – or at least in doubt. Within the last six years, I have had my focus on German regulations (which are quite strict) and its development, and can tell you from personal experience what several of these CASL measures will cause for your business (as I know what they caused in Germany).

I will try to give some answers, or at least formulate some questions which currently nobody can really (authoratively)answer, and which – in my opinion – have to be answered by the regulator itself. Everything else, which is not yet the text of the law, is mere guessing.

What does CASL mean to your business?

First: It will cost you money. And if you have done or will do a lot of email marketing, it will cost you a great deal of money. Forget all these articles which prevaricate and avoid any clear statement, if there will be a positive or negative ROI for the marketers….. Forget it. The ROI will be negative, if you want to make sure that you comply with the law.

Second: There will be databases you will have to dump. Loss of addresses = loss of money.

Third: A generation of new email-subscribers will become more expensive.

Where problems will occur:

1. Example “Business Cards”: So you built your email list by collecting business cards? Do you still have all these business cards from the last 10 years? No? Are all of these business contacts also business partners, i.e. where you have ongoing revenues etc.? Not all of them? Bad luck. If you cannot prove (potential) consent of emailing than you will have to trash these addresses.

2. Example “Bought Email Lists”: You bought email-lists in the past, and skipped the recipients which were not interested and kept only those which were interested in your mails. Please trash.

3. Example “Old registrations”: You have email lists which you started generating on your website 10 years ago. I wish you all the best when looking for the proofs of consent!

The first basic questions about CASL

As I understand the original intent of CASL, it was implemented to do something against fraud (e.g. the so called Nigeria Connection), phishing, the “enlarge your xxxxx”-emails etc.. This is a good aim.

But do you, therefore, have to declare all commercial messages illegal to afterwards define exemptions? And will you really get these phishing guys and other fraudsters caught by an Anti-Spam law? I always thought fraud and identity theft etc. are already illegal in Canada.

We see: “6. 1) It is prohibited to send or cause or permit to be sent to an electronic address a commercial electronic message unless…..”
Maybe legislation should fight against obesity by declaring: “Eating is prohibited unless….”

Is this what we really want? To my ears, this sounds somewhat like legislation in Communist times. In the first step, there is a general prohibition and in the second step the Communist party declares exemptions where it needs them. I think this is a very basic question which we should consider first, before we go into all the details!

Some more questions and answers around details of CASL will come in following articles.

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