CASL One Year In: Less spam, but marketers still grumbling

What has a year of C-28 meant for the industry?

Since Canada’s Anti-Spam Law was finalized in 2013, businesses have struggled to update their email practices to make sure that they’re getting express consent from consumers before messaging them. But even a year after the CRTC first opened up FightSpam.gc.ca to consumer complaints, small business marketers still feel they haven’t been given enough time to prepare and some have cut down or cut off email promotions as a result.

That’s according to a survey of SMBs from Quebec-based email distribution platform Cyberimpact, conducted earlier this month. Cyberimpact, which heavily promotes its CASL-compliance services (and certainly has a horse in the race), collected responses from 500 clients about their opinions on CASL and how their practices have changed as a result of it.

A strong minority (39%) said they feel that CASL has hampered their promotional efforts, and an even larger number (48%) said they feel it’s impeded their efforts to compete with their counterparts in the U.S., where no such law applies. In order to adapt to the stronger consent requirements in the new law, 39% of SMBs have cut down their email distribution lists (which in some cases may be a good thing, if the contacts that were cut weren’t opening their mail).

Patrick Tremblay, sales and customer service manager of Cyberimpact, said he gets the sense that the biggest problem for clients is the confusion about the law. He said many SMBs either don’t know how to update their practices, believe it will be too much work to do so, or think there’s too much risk involved. As a result, 10% of businesses in the survey said they had stopped email marketing altogether.

However, Tremblay also said that many clients have successfully adapted to the law, by using automated tools to acquire express consent and track expiration dates for contacts in their lists. For the most part, he said, once SMBs are informed about what measures they need to take and have the necessary tools, CASL compliance is fairly straightforward and pain-free.

There’s no doubt that CASL has been effective. According to U.S. security firm Cloudmark, there’s been a 37% reduction in global spam originating from Canada since the law was passed. But it’s also had a chill effect on email communication in general: 29% fewer emails have been sent from all sources, including legitimate traffic, since the law was passed.

For companies that are guilty of spam, the hammer hasn’t really fallen yet. Since the law came into effect in January, the CRTC has only levied two fines – one against Quebec corporate training site Compu-Finder, for $1.1 million, and another against dating site PlentyOfFish, for $48,000. But given that there have been a whopping 310,000 consumer complaints submitted to FightSpam.gc.ca since it launched, there are likely many other investigations still underway.

Check out the full results from Cyberimpact’s CASL survey below.

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