Troubles in the CASL

July 2, 2014 at 6:20 pm | Posted in Computers, Economoney, Internet, Online services, Software | 3 Comments

Recently in Canada, a lot of small businesses and charities have been quite concerned. On July 1, new anti-spam legislation came into effect here. Many small organizations depend on low-cost messaging services to communicate and advertise. A few have been a little sloppy about their lists.

While anti-spam legislation is a good idea, when they define it with terms like “electronic address”, there are issues. Everything on the Internet has an electronic address. Also, very little spam originates from where the legislation will have any effect. Estimates I’ve seen suggest 2%.

The main thing you need to understand is that CASL is mostly about email, though Instant Messaging and SMS are included. It’s about sending directly to a person’s electronic address, typically to many such at a time.

If you’re doing so without their documented consent through some sort of relationship, this is now spamming and subject to fines. (see the implicit/ explicit summary below) Thus, you want to ensure your newsletter/ emailing list is fully Opt-in. If you’ve been using a service like MailChimp or Constant Contact, they will normally do a confirmed or double Opt-in. The end user enters an email address on-line or clicks a link and the system sends them an email to confirm – click and done. Even many blogs comment subscriptions double-confirm now (on WordPress).

However, if you’ve manually entered peoples email addresses or your list is mostly imported, then you will want to ask your subscribers to re-verify with a new Opt-in. You’ve probably seen a bunch of such emails yourself. Constant Contact handily offers a “CASL Template” for doing so. The user clicks the email link and it’s done. (though you’ll need to edit the Contacts, Signup Tools, Change of Interest email as that’s what they’ve used for an email post-confirmation – just make the message more generic.) Constant Contact has said they’ll be exposing the confirmed data in reports later this month. Managing will thus be easy.

With Constant Contact, you may also wish to update your email headers to add the Confirmation option to all emails as well.

So far MailChimp has offered an overview article on the subject. That makes setting up a confirmation email much more involved, not to mention managing the results. MadMimi just refers to the US CAN SPAM law with a link to the CASL site. Even less helpful.

If you’re emailing large groups from your home computer with no unsubscribe link and no opt-in routine, you’re falling further and further outside the law in N. America. Not such a cheap option if you get fined. If your list is under 2,000 in size and you don’t send a ton of messages, MailChimp and MadMimi are both free. I’d suggest that after you import your list, your first order of business will be to send a verification email to get everyone to opt in. Or you drop them.

You also then get all the advantages of reporting, subscription management and so forth. Much easier to manage. And the templates help you to easily design professional looking messages.

All of this will ensure your Contact list is compliant. It may also save you a bit of money as you purge email addresses that have gone stale – just look at your Open vs Send rates. Many abandon free accounts over time. And some ISP’s no longer bounce stale addresses as it can lead to them getting on spam lists, ironically.

Updates that you post on your blog, Twitter or Facebook are sent to yourself. People who then wish to partake of these updates can then choose to view or subscribe. No worries there, in spite of some comments in the news. CASL does not apply.

EasyDNS has offered an excellent summary of implicit and explicit consent and why sending an unsubscribe reminder (Opt Out) won’t cut it.

Also note that you have time. The government does not plan to enforce this for 3 years. But don’t wait – it will take time to herd your cats and you don’t want to wander onto someone’s radar meantime.

Finally, here’s a review of a CRTC presentation on the topic that should ease some minds. But it also highlights the vague language in the legislation. It’s also notable it covers unauthorized software installs but is again a little vague on meaning.

If you have any experience dealing with emailing services we’d be interested in hearing how well they supported you with CASL.
David

UPDATE – see comments

3 Comments »

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  1. Constant Contact has an issue with editing confirmed email addresses. You can’t. While every sent email has an Update link to allow subscribers to update their address, not all subscribers are able to follow instructions.

    While you can add a second, new email address to a Contact, then remove the first from any lists, this will still mean the old email address shows as the primary contact. That will get messy over time. The easiest solution is to delete the Contact and manually add it again with the new address.

    However, now you have an unconfirmed email address and the system doesn’t send a Confirmation email so the address is non-compliant with CASL.

    Discovered a little trick. In Contacts, if you then select your new contact, a new menu appears called More Actions on the upper right of the list. Under that is QuickSend. Select this and choose your prior CASL template confirmation email and your new contacts will get a confirmation email and you’ll get them compliant.

    Of course, sending them to your web site sign-up box or sending them the link from the Contacts, Signup Tools is much simpler. But if you do have to manually add or edit someone, this is a fix.

    Like

  2. Another reference
    http://littlewoo.org/what-you-should-know-about-canada-anti-spam-legislation/

    but as they note, trying to figure out who is who and retain the various records is a big headache for a typical small business or non-profit. Much simpler to do double-opt-in for everyone.

    Like

  3. Constant Contact now has an export function that allows you to export a list that displays their confirm status, allowing you to be interim compliant. You now know which contacts need to be upgraded in the next 3 years.
    In Settings, you have to turn on Advanced email fields, then select them in the export.

    The export does not show the re-confirms, just the express and implied.
    If you open a Contact, it will show their confirmed status (express, confirmed, and implied) and if they’ve been opening emails in the last year.

    If they’re implied and have not been looking at emails, remove them from your lists.

    Like


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