It’s July 1 and the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) goes into effect today.
As you can imagine, there’s a lot of legal stuff involved, most of which goes way over my head because I don’t have any authority, expertise or law degrees. I am not a lawyer and this is not legal advice.
However, as a blogger and business owner, I’ve done some reading. (Any blogger or business owner should. From many sources.)
Because I’ve been asked…
I’ll share how I understand CASL and what I’m doing for my own business. You (and your lawyer) will have to decide what to do for yours.
If you’ve come across different or additional information in your own research, please, please feel free to share in the comments. We’ve gotta be in this together.
What I’m doing may be considered overkill by some, but I’d rather err on that side than the other. Especially when there are million dollar fines hanging in the balance.
Things to know
- CASL will not single-handedly change the internet as we know it. No need to freak out, but don’t ignore it either.
- Regarding email, if you have a double opt-in email list (like from Mad Mimi*, FeedBurner or another well-known email service provider) you’re probably doing a lot right already.
- A lot of people are focusing on CASL as it applies to emails, newsletters and email marketing in general. However, at this point, the rules also apply to other forms of electronic communication like texts, instant messages (IMs), direct messages (DMs), @ replies on Twitter, etc.
- The rules only apply to people you send “commercial electronic messages” to in Canada. It doesn’t apply to people you send commercial electronic messages in other parts of the world (although those countries might have their own laws you need to abide by).
- People who live in Canada do have email addresses without the .ca at the end (ex. email@example.com) so don’t assume email addresses without the .ca are fine.
- CASL doesn’t just affect businesses. It affects organizations too.
- Make sure anyone who works for you (like a VA) knows about CASL.
- The details of CASL are not entirely clear. There are a lot of gray areas. All the more reason you should know how it specifically applies to you and your situation. Do your research!
What is CASL & should you care?
CASL is a Canadian law aimed at reducing spam in any “commercial electronic message” (CEM) accessible by computers in Canada. In other words, if you send electronic messages to people in Canada, you should pay attention. Not sure?
Do you use electronic channels (email, social media, texts, etc.) to promote/market your organization, product(s) or service(s)? If so, you should pay attention to CASL because it’s likely some of those will go to Canada. (source)
What does CASL require?
The above infographic is from the main site of CASL. Here are the main points:
- Consent. You have to get explicit consent by a Canadian recipient before you send them a commercial electronic message.
- Identification. You need to identify yourself with a name and current mailing address address. Also, you need to provide a working email address, phone number or website address.
- Unsubscribe option. You need to have an easy unsubscribe option in each message.
What I’m doing
Keep doing what I’m doing.
The Useletter is definitely my most valuable commercial electronic message (I don’t do much elsewhere). Because it’s double opt-in, people have given me explicit consent to email them, so I can keep doing business as usual there.
Edit the footer in emailed blog posts.
I don’t really offer blog posts via email anymore, but if you do, you might wanna put your identification info in the footer of every email.
How do you know if you have contact info in there already? Pull up one of your archived emails (you do subscribe to your own blog, right?) and check. If your contact info is not there and you’re not sure how to get it there, you can contact your email service provider. Alternatively, a simple workaround is to put the contact info in the footer of your RSS feed. You can use Yoast’s WordPress SEO plugin to do this. Once you’ve installed the plugin, go to your WordPress Dashboard. Then go to SEO (in the left column) –> RSS –> Content to put after each post –> Enter your contact info –> Save. Then check to make sure it’s in there next time a post goes out.
Edit The Useletter footer.
Mad Mimi makes it easy to include a mailing address in the footer of your emails. That’s been there since the beginning. Today I added my website address to fulfill the second part of the identification requirement (see infographic above).
If you’re using Mad Mimi, go to Account. I simply added my website address to the end of “Physical Address.”
Take out the “Forward to a Friend” option in The Useletter
I’m doing this per Jeanne Jennings’s suggestion on ClickZ because I can’t guarantee my emails won’t be forwarded to someone who hasn’t given me consent.
To remove this feature in Mad Mimi, go to Tweaks and “hide” the option to forward to a friend. Save your changes.
Edit my confirmation email.
As soon as someone enters their email address into The Useletter signup form, they are sent a confirmation email. (The confirmation email is the second step in the double opt-in process.) They have to click the confirmation link in that email in order to complete the 2-step signup process and be added to my mailing list. Until today, my confirmation email said this:
Thanks for signing up for my useletter! I’m excited you’ll be joining me, but I want to make sure no one signed you up without your consent. So please follow the simple instructions below and you’ll get the next useletter as soon as it goes out!
But now I’ve added the 3 elements suggested by CASL (purpose, identification and unsubscribe info). It reads:
Thanks for signing up for The Useletter! I’m excited you’ll be joining me, but I want to make sure no one entered your email address without your consent.
Do you see that confirmation link down there at the bottom of this email? By clicking on it, you are agreeing to let me send you my super duper emails. Once you click that link, you’ll get The Useletter as soon as it goes out again. You can unsubscribe at any time by clicking the unsubscribe link at the bottom of any email you receive.
By the way, if you have questions, reply to this email or reach me at AmyLynnAndrews.com.
(You can also contact me via snail mail here: [mailing address].)
To edit your confirmation email in Mad Mimi:
Click the Webform tab on the right. Click the Edit button of the webform you want to edit. Click the Advanced tab on the right. Click the “Edit activation message” button to edit. Don’t forget to save your changes when you’re done!
Edit my Contact page.
I’m editing the email address I have on my Contact page to include “no unsolicited sales or promotional emails please.” This is because there’s a caveat in the law that says you can send something if an email address is publicly displayed without a note to not send promotional messages. I realize I’m not a Canadian so it doesn’t really apply, but why not put this in anyway? You know, keep the spammers guessing.
I will not send emails to customers more than 2 years from the date of purchase.
When someone buys something from me (like Tell Your Time), it means I have an active business relationship with them and emailing them is acceptable within 2 years. Also, if someone has contacted me with a question about my products/services within the last 6 months, I can email them too. Longer than that, though, and it’s not allowed without express consent.
Things that don’t apply to me but might to you
Read the linked articles and linked sources for more…
- There’s some question about whether or not it’s okay to add an email address from a contact’s business card.
- No pre-checked opt-in boxes allowed. This does not so much apply to me as a business owner, but as a consumer, I like this part (well, I would if I was Canadian). I can’t stand it when I buy something and as I’m working my way through the checkout process, there are pre-checked boxes that automatically sign me up for a mailing list too. This is part of CASL explained as “express consent.” In other words, someone has to take action in order to get on your list. Another example is, you can’t say things like “check the box if you don’t want to be added to the list” or “check the box if you don’t want to receive emails” or “click the link if you want to stop receiving emails.”
- Do not buy email lists.
- Switch from single opt-in to double opt-in.
Recap of my main sources
- Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (official site). Of particular interest might be the FAQ page.
- Answering Questions About Consent and CASL (ExactTarget)
- CASL’s Impact on Email Marketers (ClickZ)
- What You Need to Know About Canada’s New Anti-Spam Law (Copyblogger)
- CASL – A Quick Guide and the Death of Single Opt-In (FeedBlitz)
- About the Canada Anti-Spam Law (CASL) (MailChimp)