Monday, 19 October 2015

Please New Canadian Government, Have Another Look at the CASL

Everybody and their proverbial dog from anywhere outside of Canada can spam us at their pleasure but -- under the year+-old CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) -- we cannot spam each other inside Canada. 

            The fines for noncompliance are prohibitive for small businesses, and compliance is time consuming.

            Even teeny tiny operations that are selling anything at all have to abide by the CASL. Which involves getting permission from everybody on your mailing list to be on it. Which then requires a fairly more sophisticated tracking system—forever--to prove you haven’t spammed anone. So CASL left little organizations scrambling around to learn how to use  costly mailing systems like MailChimp or ConstantContact.

            Offshore agencies are exempt. So it means huge multinational corporations can spam me unstintingly. 

            CASL does nothing about, say, the gazillion emails that small outfits from the U.S. who are selling Self-Publishing services. 

          But my local yoga studio can't send me a calendar of their new programs or a reminder about their classes without complying to the CASL - or potentially subject to those big fines. Anybody in Canada who charges for what they do is subject to these laws. But I get masses of unwanted spam from foreign companies - with nothing to be done.

            You’ll notice emails from such Canadian entrepreneurs carries always an option to “unsubscribe” at the bottom, and they must also identify themselves and give their contact information under the CASL. Not so anyone else. Sometimes those emails carry an “unsubscribe” tab, but one is reluctant to use it because it indicates a live email address to the person at the other end (sellable to more offshore spammers).

            The CRTC says “Canada’s new anti-spam legislation (CASL) helps protect Canadians while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete in the global marketplace.” 

            After slightly over a year, I'm not convinced.

            The firm Deloitte in their CASL FAQ says: “Canada's Anti-Spam Law (CASL) is one of the toughest laws of its kind in the world, making its application and interpretation particularly thorny.”

            Note question their sixth question:
6. What happens if we don’t comply with CASL?  Organizations that don’t comply risk serious penalties, including criminal charges, civil charges, personal liability for company officers and directors, and penalties up to $10 million.”

            For an unwanted Canadian email. 

            Unwanted offshore emails? No problem.

Email coming from outside the country has no such laws upon it. I’d much rather the government had legislated offshore companies, and left Canadians alone. What did they accomplish really? – apart from making it harder for us to talk to each other.

In the slightly over a year since the CASL went into force, the enforcing agency CRTC Has levied fines of $1.1Million (March 5, 2015); $48,000 to PlentyOfFish for emails “that did not contain an unsubscribe mechanism that was set out clearly and prominently..."; and $150,000 to Toronto-based 
Porter Airlines  - all described in a blogpost, “CASL: One Year In.”

CASL has no doubt affected some good in decreasing the Canadian spam in your inbox. In that “CASL: One Year In” article they quote a ConstantContact™ survey that found:

·      “70% of businesses have continued to use email marketing as they had before CASL, 9% have increased their efforts and 6% began email marketing initiatives for the first time.

·       “Meanwhile, 13% have decreased email marketing activity, while just 2% have stopped all together since CASL became the law.  As far as email lists go, 65% of survey participants said their lists have stayed the same, 10% saw an increase while 25% indicated a decrease.”   

But that is a survey done only amongst ConstantContact™ users, so may not reflect the broad Canadian picture.

Small Canadian email marketers (which would include my little yoga studio) have had to spend a lot more admin time on complying to the CASL, which is onerous for any small outfit with limited staff.

I don’t see how CASL supports our entrepreneurs (especially small ones) who market their wares by email “to compete in the global marketplace,” and it seems to put them at a clear disadvantage in the Canadian marketplace.

CASL hasn’t put a dent in the U.S. and offshore spam in my inbox. I just opened an email from another American guy wanting to help me self-publish my book.