What is CASL? The Basics of Bill C-28

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Deep Dive: 4 Things You Probably Didn't Know About CASL

Welcome to the beginning of a month long CASL-a-palooza here at the Hive.

We're going to be publishing a constant stream of practical and actionable CASL information so you'll be prepared for the coming changes this July 1, 2014. 

Let's dive right in with some background on CASL, talk about where Bill C-28 came from and where it's going to take us. First things first, CASL has been with us for 3.5 years as shocking as that may sound, however it's had no enforcement in that time.

Imagine you have a speed limit posted but no tickets could ever be issued for speeding.

Although most people would stay within reasonable bounds of the limit there would be a few who just go crazy and drive 160km/h in a 100km/h zone at all times. 

CASL is the speeding ticket, and it can be a hefty one.

What is the intent of CASL?

The intent of CASL is to deter the most damaging and deceptive forms of spam, such as identity theft, phishing and spyware, from occurring in Canada and to help to drive out spammers.

This makes CASL a good thing. Why?

  1. Spam is bad.
  2. Unsolicited electronic communications are bad.
  3. It's annoying to enter a contest using a paper ballot and all of a sudden get random promotional and marketing emails. If you're a marketer and reading this, I know you've done this, admit it!
  4. Being the recipient of what many in business call the "email blast" is the most annoying thing I can imagine, a completely un-targeted non-personalized message that truly means nothing to me. I have to qualify that I also despise the cringe-worthy term "email blast" under any circumstances.
  5. Have you ever unsubscribed and magically emails continue to be sent to you? Yep. Me too.
  6. From a marketing perspective unqualified email lists suck. Open rates are terrible, complaints abound and the message simply isn't delivered. Not much point to them so hyper qualifying will now be law. It's not often I say this but "Thank You Government of Canada".

You should also use the Canadian Government's Fight Spam Website as your primary resource: www.fightspam.gc.ca and of course the extensive (and practical) resources right here at Honeypot Marketing. 

When talking about electronic communication, and let's note that distinction CASL is about more than email. It's covers telephone and any electronic method of communications: SMS, voice, email, anything electronic. In many ways everything is electronic in 2014. 

It also deals with other electronic threats to commerce, such as the installation of computer programs and the alteration of transmission data, without express consent. These threats also include the installation of malware, such as computer viruses.

A note to software developers: your work needs to be CASL compliant.

And finally to quote the government: 

These violations include, but are not limited to, spam, malware, spyware, address harvesting and false and misleading representations involving the use of any means of telecommunications, Short Message Services (SMS), social networking, websites, URL's and other locators, applications, blogs, Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP), and any other current and future internet and wireless telecommunication threats prohibited by Canada's anti-spam legislation.

Got it. Now What?

Assuming you're the sender of electronic messages there are three basic things you need to do and I sincerely hope you're doing these today:

  1. Gain diligent (trackable) consent from the user.
  2. Provide your complete contact and identification information.
  3. Provide simple, immediate and clear unsubscribe mechanisms. 

Consent is the interesting topic here. Currently you're probably doing one of two things: implied consent or no consent at all. We see "no consent at all" every day here at Honeypot. This includes:

  1. Paper ballot inclusion into a marketing list without any expressed consent.
  2. "Fishbowl" marketing. Meaning I went to a conference and dropped my business card, suddenly I'm in a sales and marketing campaign.
  3. Address harvesting. I got some nifty software that pulled people information from Facebook or some other forum. 
  4. I bought a list and here it is in Excel format.

All of the above are violations of CASL. I would strongly recommend not doing that any more, not to mention the fact that you should never have done it in the first place to be quite blunt.

What Do I Do Now?

Lots. You can start by doing the following to get your house in order:

  1. Get yourself a proper marketing platform and system. These include Hubspot, ActOn or Mailchimp, you need to centralize information.
  2. Make sure you sweep through your organization and find out where consumer information came from and who is using it for what. No more cowboy sales and marketing efforts.
  3. Create a clever series of "opt-in" campaigns in the month of June. Get that consent, make it worth your leads and customers time.
  4. Do not send your monthly "e-blast" before addressing your CASL diligence and requirements. Fines suck, the process will suck even worse especially if you made  a mistake rather than acted maliciously.
  5. Do The Right Thing. If you think it might be wrong then you're right, it's wrong.

CASL is both simple and complex at the same time. Don't get stuck in the semantics and weeds, be straight-forward and truly consider what you communication process looks like as you market, and grow your business. 

If you're looking for more CASL news and information then be sure to check out 4 Things You Probably Didn't Know About CASL.

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