July 1, 2014: the day at long last that CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) comes into force. Hopefully, your company preparations for this change were finalized weeks ago. If you are just joining the CASL party, you may have some significant work to do. This law isn't just for Canadian-based senders; CASL impacts anyone who communicates with any Canadian residents. The law is certainly a step beyond the US CAN-SPAM law in many respects, but it is not as harsh as the regulations in say, Australia or Germany. For the most part, most marketers will already meet most of the CASL criteria, but there are some nuances that may catch you off-guard.
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The foundation of CASL is the definition of permission. Permission and how it was obtained is the key to understanding when and how you can communicate with customers and prospects. There are two types of permission defined by CASL, implied and explicit consent. Implied consent is defined by an existing business relationship. Implied consent has a 24-month shelf life. Explicit consent is valid until it is revoked by the recipient.
A few very important points:
1. Pre-checked boxes are now against the law. You can no longer have a pre-checked box in the sign-up process that automatically opt people into receiving promotional email. You are allowed to have an unchecked box, which if people click would constitute an explicit opt-in.
2. The requirement for compliance starts today. There is a grace-period, but there are some misconceptions out there about this. You are no longer allowed to mail people that you do not have either implicit consent (defined by an existing business relationship) or explicit consent. If you aren’t sure, you are no longer allowed to mail those people. You have until July 1, 2016 to either confirm explicit permission or the person must make another purchase to continue the implicit consent. On July 1, 2017, the right to private action comes into effect. This is when individual citizens will be able to challenge violators.
3. The definition of a transactional message is probably different from what you believe. There is still a provision that allows you to send transactional messages such as password reset, purchase, and shipping confirmations. However, the caveat is that a transactional message can contain NO promotional content. The 70:30 ratio of promotional to transactional content no longer applies.
4. The law applies to any residents of Canada. If you are an American company for example, you must comply with the rules of CASL on any mailings to Canadians. If you are a Canadian company mailing to the US for example, you must comply with the rules of the US, not CASL for American recipients.
5. There is a lot of recent change in the way countries and providers are looking at permission. The best advice is to make sure prospective customers are explicitly signing up for email, and that they have a very clear idea of what those communications will look like.
For more best practice tips, check out our Email Deliverability resources page.