Can CASL brake Canada’s SPAM addiction?

Canadians are addicted to email. 86% of online Canadians check their email several times a day, more than social media (Exact Target Digital North Report 2013). It’s easy to use, accessible from most devices, and fast. We use it for both personal and business matters. We have come to accept spam as the necessary evil. We don’t want it. At times we really don’t want it! But we have learned to ignore it and even manage it. We accept SPAM precisely because of how dependent we are on email.

Canadian businesses as well run on email. And why not? Email is inexpensive, easy to execute, and reaches over 90% of online Canadians (Exact Target Digital North Report 2013). We use our email addresses as logins. We use them for ecommerce and financial confirmations. We use email as legal proof equivalent to physical documents. Think about the last time the email server was down in your office. What happened? Did people continued in their work or were they frozen unsure what to do? We are totally dependant on email. I would even go as far as saying we are addicted to it. Many retailers see it as a cheap fix to their constant need for prospects. Isn’t this why Canada has such a high abuse rate? Isn’t this the very reason why CRTC released this law?

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) was approved in November of last year and will be taking effect on July 1, 2014. I applaud CRTC for wanting to make Canada a spam-heaven. I commend them for drawing a line between implied and express consent. I complement them for having the foresight to include computer and mobile applications in the legislation. I even agree with their position on pursuing actual decision makers who to date were protected by corporate walls. I recognize the extensive plan they have put together to educate consumers and businesses about the legislation.

That’s where my complements stop. CRTC has done a good job telling WHAT must be done, but they get failing grades for showing us HOW to do it. They failed to understand the complex process companies will have to undergo to achieve compliance. Telling us how to change our marketing and IT solutions is not enough. The business itself has to evolve. The email industry has to evolve. Our attitudes have to evolve. Scaring us with a big stick, multi-million dollar penalties, doesn’t help. It immobilizes us in fear. It makes us react emotionally. Instead, what we need is sufficient time and information to evolve our business.

Your actions are equivalent to taking drugs away from addicts but leaving them without any understanding or support on how to rehabilitate. Or imagine the impact on economy if government gave us 6 months to stop using gas for fuelling our vehicles. This course of action lacks understanding, foresight, is totally irresponsible, and will result in chaos before it does any good. Did you provide any resources or direction for email providers how to this will impact email reputation management? Did you provide any insights to small businesses about how they should now prospect new business leads or even decrease their reliance on email? Did you provide any tools or services (even paid third-party) for businesses to figure out how to make their practices CASL compliant? Did you equip the lawyers on how to direct their clients in achieving compliance, not simply mitigating liability? Did you campaign in US to make our partners aware of changes they must take?

The timeline of six to seven months to compliance is equally ridiculous. The July 1st compliance deadline is probably achievable for smaller and more sophisticated businesses, but it is not enough for larger companies, marketing agencies, email providers, and any other business that is reliant on email for their communications. That’s barely enough to educate internal teams, talk to lawyers, and reach a consensus. Where is the time to plan and execute? This is totally backwards. You have done more damage than good. First you should have raised public awareness, gain consumer and business support to resolve the problem, and educate the public. You could have setup and promote the correct behaviour through best practice centers. Only then when people are equipped and knowledgable with how to deal with the issue do you roll out a legislation deadline.

Here is what you are achieving right now: I’m speculating about a third of Canadian businesses will be compliant for July 1st (they know how to achieve compliance and have the resources to do it). A third doesn’t care or is intentionally ignoring the issue for a variety of reason. The last third is in chaos, confused, immobilized, scared, and desperately trying to inch forward. Some are simply shifting their abuse to phones or social media. Companies are spending a lot of money doing the clean-up. They are educating themselves. Companies in US and other countries are in much worse shape. Most barely know about CASL.

What’s CRTC is not being very transparent with is the money it invested into rolling out this legislation as well as the highly sophisticated monitoring solutions it developed to identify and track abusers. CASL penalty money are no doubt be used in part to fund these new technologies. CRTC is also not transparent what they will use with the rest of all that money. I doubt enforcement of CASL will require a billion dollar budget.

What I am most disappointed about is who will pay for this chaos. It will not be the government. Long term, it will not even be the companies. It will be the very consumers we are trying to benefit. Companies will raise their operational fees and pass on the costs to consumers. Facing another round of product and service increases in this economy, I’m wondering if I would rather delete some spam in my mailbox. At least I already know how to deal with that and it takes only a few seconds.

References
Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation
Exact Target Digital North Report

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