We talked about the rules of the Canadian Anti-Spam Law, a law which does far more than attack spam. It’s a misguided piece of legislation, in my honest opinion. It requires businesses to obtain consent before sending commercial messages online, identify themselves by name and physical address, and provide a clear manner of removing consent through unsubscribing for every communication. Even a single one. Getting consent for sending out marketing messages is a good practice, but not for someone you’ve had a long relationship with in the past.
Thank goodness businesses have a three year grace period for current business relationships, but what does this legislation mean in the long term? Quite frankly, this is going to wreck or dramatically alter a lot of business models. It’s also not going to do much against spam so let’s talk about the effects of CASL.
Why CASL Doesn’t Work Against True Spam
First of all, I don’t see why we need new spam legislation in the first place. Today’s web filters are very good at blocking nearly all the spam we get. The few pieces that do get through tend to be scam emails that encourage someone to launder money, and CASL is not going to stop those. In fact, since I won’t be getting my gift certificates from Best Buy because I somehow lost that consent email in the CASL flood, the real spam emails are going to stick out and bother us even more. It’s the very illegal emails that use high levels of technical trickery to get around the filter that still make it to your inbox and CASL isn’t going to stop them. In the past, an email from the local big box store with coupons will just get tossed like any other form of junk mail and we can look at it in the junk folder. We’re used to that. Isn’t it also strange that we have spent a ton of time, energy, and money for CASL to stop so called electronic junk mail, but we are still going to have our physical mailbox at home filled with real junk mail that is 1000 times more wasteful?
All of this effort, and CASL has no real teeth to address truly illegal spam at all unless it comes from inside the country! Nearly all of it originates from outside North America. Is the Canadian court going to issue a summons for someone in Asia or Africa and demand they pay? I find this laughable. Of course, if someone is ignorant enough to run a classic illegal spam campaign in Canada now, they’re going to pay big time.
Even more laughable is that CASL can only affect Canadian businesses. International companies have no reason to comply with the law! A professor, Leyland Pitt of SFU, believes that this law will only reduce about 2% of spam.
The Oncoming Flood
In the last month there has been a flood of consent request emails going out to customers, colleagues, etc… Every business large and small has been pounding inboxes asking for consent to cover themselves for their current and new relationships If it hasn’t already happened, you can bet that consent fatigue is going to set in.
Additional fallout: My CASL predictions
In the short term, businesses will work to comply with the law. However, I do have some predictions:
Companies that rely heavily on email marketing may offshore their email operations through an offshore subsidiary to try and get around the law:
There are some portions of the law that make this difficult, notably the identification rules, but it’s not impossible. Once that trick is figured out, expect more emails that don’t comply with the act but can’t be prosecuted.
Digital marketers are going to make a ton off this law:
Google and Facebook will just love this in Canada. Some will be burning the midnight oil to help businesses comply with the law. PPC ad companies will see a big bump in revenues because businesses will find very quickly that they just don’t have the audience for email marketing through losing 95% of their email lists.
Canadian businesses will find themselves at a disadvantage:
CASL is basically a “Do Not Call” registry for email marketing, with all the same inherent flaws. Once companies figure out how they can legally move their email operations off-shore, it won’t stop them from sending messages. It doesn’t stop illegal email activity. It puts extra burdens on Canadian businesses and consumers, and makes it harder for Canadian businesses to compete against international interests. For small online businesses in Canada that use mass emails to communicate with their customers, this could be a death sentence. They’re now locked in the CASL dungeon, searching for a way out.
Digital Strategy will become a must for businesses:
All is not lost for those that have the know-how to make things work. Getting consent is not difficult when you have something that customers and potential customers want. I get consent from customers all the time because I give them information that they are interested in. Things like leadership casting and digital hooks are going to become extremely important and for the companies that know how to do this will end up with a very engaged email list that will be in the ever important sales funnel.A little consent goes a long way in learning how to smash the web!