Some Suggestions For A New Emailing Etiquette In A CASL World

19076708First of all, this is not an attempt to trash the new Anti-Spam legislation. Anyone who has read the summary of what it encompasses will automatically know that it is, in certain areas, complete overkill. But it is, for the time being, and for better or worse, the law of the land starting July 1, 12014. Here is the CRTC page that outlines this law:

Having said that, the one thing that that this new legislation is not, is automated. It requires discretion on the part of anyone receiving business emails, because it is a report-based system. 

And this is a good thing because it means that we can all make our own decisions as to what we believe constitutes SPAM, especially in the grey areas of one-to-one communications.

What Is This Strange New Power We All Have?

According to the CRTC, we now have the power to report these spammers and the CRTC will pursue them with vigour and hit them up for ludicrously large fines for non-compliance. But only if their spam originates from within Canada, which, regrettably the vast majority of nasty spam does not.

But the simple fact is that after July 1, the CRTC, by their own admission, will become swamped with complaints. (They estimate at least 10,000 a day, which I think is nuts). And because, also by their own admission, they don’t have a ton of manpower, they are going to be completely overwhelmed and as a result will have to really prioritize , which means that a lot of these complaints will simply not be acted on. The hope here is that the worst offenders will be found out and dealt with.

Not Many People Have A Clue About This Legislation.

The other issue here is that the government has not done what you would call a stellar job of informing businesses of the scope and impact of this legislation. So for some time after it becomes enforceable, a lot of businesses will still be getting business emails from people and companies that are non-compliant.

If you’re reading about CSAL for the first time here, you may also be in that same situation. 

Here’s How We Can Help Each Other.

We can help the CRTC reduce this glut of complaints in several different ways that I can think of. Maybe you know a couple yourself.

1. If you’re on an email list and the sender hasn’t  sent you a compliance request, (probably because they didn’t know anything about this legislation), and you want to stay on that list, just stay on the list and don’t report those people.

2, If your business outsources certain types of services or buys certain types of products and you want to keep up to speed with who is out there with what products or services, don’t report people who are emailing you about this stuff, because they’re just trying to help you out.

3. If you go to an event where you are handing out cards or info and somebody from that event emails you to make an enquiry, don’t report those people, because, hey, you gave them your card, which has always been an invitation to make contact.

4. If someone sends you an email and doesn’t have an OPT OUT provision on it, instead of reporting them, send them back a response like this:  “ Hi There. I noticed that you are not providing me with the option to OPT OUT on the email you sent me. If the future please include this feature in order to comply with the new Canadian Anti-Spam legislation.” (Feel free to cut and paste this). It only takes a minute to do this and the person on the other end of your message will genuinely appreciate the gesture.

Today’s $64,000 Question….What Is Spam? 

This Anti-Spam legislation is, at its core, designed to stem the flow of spam emails and tweets etc.. But what it has done, either by design or inadvertently, is expand the definition of spam to include honest everyday business enquiries. 

In the information age, emails are one of the most effective ways for individuals or companies to communicate. The vast majority of people who send out emails to businesses are really just trying to get onto someone’s shopping list, either for products or services that those companies might need. And it has always been up to each individual recipient to decide on whether or not that communication is ‘spam’, or just useful information.

The best way to differentiate is simple.

Take a look at the email. If it is addressed to you personally, and sender has included all his or her contact information (and an OPT OUT, as soon as they get that together), it’s really a one-to-one message. And even if you did report it, the chances of the CRTC being able to deal with it expeditiously, at least from what I know now, are pretty remote.

If however, the message comes to you some HTML form (usually badly designed band written ) and only has your first name, or no name at all, you could call that spam, and that would definitely be reportable.

“Be Excellent To Each Other.”

Sage advice from Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, one of my favourite movies.

In today’s world one-to-one, and in a lot of valid cases, one-to-many business email messages are a necessary business tool. This legislation gives you the power to define it. Use it judiciously and fairly, because, at the end of the day you are not only a recipient, you are also a sender. Do unto others as you would have them do unto you. Good luck going forward.

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