CASL…The Good, The Bad & The Ugly

j0302829At this time next week the Canadian Anti Spam Legislation (CASL) will be a sad reality in the Canadian business world. Estimates range from 20 to 80% of small businesses in this country who so far have done nothing about this draconian set of laws that will severely cripple their ability to keep on communicating with individuals and companies they have been communicating with for years. It will also, technically, place limits on their ability to communicate with people and companies that they don’t even know about yet, but who might have need of their products or services at some point in the near future.

In my little corner of the universe, I was pro-active and sent out permission seeking emails to my main database (approx 400) of small agencies, design companies and marketing consultants. The number of Opt Ins I have received back so far are around 30. The number of Opt outs around 10. So effectively, CASL has shrunk my database by about 80%

But What About The Non-Responders?

A photographer named Larry Arnal, who is an architectural photographer, and a very good one at that, saw one of my posts about CASL on Facebook. After I filled him in on what it was all about, he was enraged, because he is a successful small business owner, who knows how to use email marketing to promote his business. He’s not a spammer, he’s a small business with a service to offer people in a specific target group. After having digested the demands this legislation makes, Larry, like many of us saw that this would severely impede his ability to market his business to companies he has identified as viable prospects.

So like many of us should do, but probably won’t, Larry wrote a letter to the Office of Consumer Affairs. He is also sending this letter to his local MP and anybody else he can think of who can add pressure to the issue. 

This is the essence of Larry’s letter. I think it makes lots of sense.

Larry Arnal…great photographer and kicker of bureaucratic ass.

Larry’s Letter

“I’m curious about how to handle something in your new CASL legislation.

With all the discussion about consent, etc and in trying to be compliant with the upcoming law, how does a business deal with the following:

I am an architectural photographer and have a current mailing list of 657 clients and potential clients who are interior designers, architects, builders, developers, magazine publishers and agencies supporting those industries.

Last week I sent out an email newsletter [to his database] with a very clear opt in or opt out as the lead of the newsletter. So far I have received 49 opt in and 3 opt out requests. That leaves 605 ambivalent recipients, some of whom are active clients and others who have come from association lists, referrals, in person business card exchanges (I understand I can mail those people for three years?), web searches, etc. I understand that in “being safe” my list has now been reduced to 49, leaving 605 as lost opportunities.

I should say that historically over the past several years of doing this type of mailing (usually two or three times per year) I pick up three or four new clients that I’ve emailed but with whom I’ve not previously worked. This would make me think they don’t object to the email but for whatever reason haven’t required my services until I happen to come along at the right time or with the right images to prompt a call.

Now, with the new [CASL] law, what am I to do with those individuals and businesses who haven’t neither opted out nor or in? It would seem to follow that since they didn’t take the step to “unsubscribe” they aren’t opposed to the email, yet for whatever reason either they didn’t even open it or they just didn’t want to register either way for whatever reason. Based on my tracking, the email was opened by 496 unique visitors. There is no way to know who those visitors are, beyond knowing they are people on my list. So 444 have chosen not to respond one way or the other.

How does your office suggest handling this?

I’ve heard from several of my friends and business affiliations that they are having similar opt in/opt out percentages, so this is becoming a conundrum for many of us.

….it’s sad that Canada has chosen to hobble business and have such an environmental impact for the sake of those who find pressing a “delete” key or setting up a spam filter so daunting.

I look forward to your reply so that I can make a proper decision on my email marketing post July 1.”

j0315598Is This ‘New Reality’ Something We Will Be Forced To Live With?

Like many of us, who are still under the impression that we live in a free country with a capitalist based economy, it’s hard not to feel that the government has overstepped its mandate to stop spammers by basically extending this opt in requirement to everyone who sends electronic messages as part of legitimately maintaining and building their business.

The reason I say this has do to with that old chestnut, the 80/20 rule. How this applies is that if you have a law that requires the people you are talking to to actually do something in order to receive emails from you, you can pretty much be assured that 80% of them won’t.  

So if you follow this logic, it will be difficult not to conclude that this is ultimately going to have a devastating effect on the legitimate small business community in Canada. But the sadder than that is that as things stand right now, legitimate business emailers are not nothing more than collateral damage in the government’s effort to stop the dreaded SPAM, a lot of which comes from offshore where this legislation has no teeth. The other factor, as Larry Arnal points out in his letter, is that SPAM can easily be sent through a spam filter to a junk mailbox on most computers, which can be easily emptied without actually having to deal with it in any significant way.

Having said all that it would be very easy to argue that this legislation is a frivolous attempt to fix something that really wasn’t all that broken in the first place.

Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something

Last time I looked, democracy still reflects the will of the people. Laws can be broken and modified. It happens all the time. But in order for that to have a chance of happening, businesses who are going through what myself and Larry Arnal have gone through need to be speak up and voice their displeasure.

I would encourage you to let you voice be heard. Because nothing happens when people do nothing.

This Just In

Apparently buried somewhere in the bowels of the CASL legislation are these two points which relate directly to the issues in this post. Namely, addresses on your existing database. So if you are slightly beside yourself over all the non-responders from your permission seeking eblast, read this carefully.

(e) The recipient has conspicuously published their electronic address, which is not accompanied by a statement that the recipient does not wish to receive unsolicited messages, and the message is related to the professional or official capacity of the recipient. Reconfirmation not necessary.

(f) The recipient has disclosed their address to the sender without indicating a wish not to receive unsolicited messages, and the message is related to the professional or official capacity of the recipient. Reconfirmation not necessary.

If you would like a copy of this entire section of the CASL act, email me and I’ll send it to you.

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