It was July 1, 2014 that Bill C-28, Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), officially came into effect. Has it actually made a difference?
The regulation requires that small businesses gain consent from consumers before sending any type of commercial message via e-mail, or they could face pretty hefty fines. Shortly after the bill came into effect, consumers were receiving an influx of e-mails requesting they click a button to confirm if "yes" they wanted to continue receive communications. If they did not click "yes," chances are they were removed from the list so the company could avoid any penalties relating to the new regulations.
According to research conducted by e-mail marketing firm Cyberimpact, almost half (48%) of businesses believe Bill C-28 has impacted their competitiveness against U.S. businesses (naturally, the regulation only applies to companies based in Canada), and 39% of small-to-medium-sized (SMBs) say that it has spoiled their promotional efforts. Sixty-two per cent say they believe the CRTC did not do a good job with building awareness around the Bill. As a result of the Bill, 10% of businesses report having ceased all marketing e-mails, entirely, and 30% have reduced the number of contacts in their distributions.
All that said, the purpose of Bill C-28, as harsh as its impact may have been on businesses that weren't keeping full consent records for their e-mail lists, was to help reduce the amount of spam we receive on a daily basis. Has it worked?
Cloudmark reports that there's 37% less spam stemming from Canada, and 29% fewer e-mails sent. Two major fines have been issued: one to Compufinder for $1.1 million and another to Plentyoffish for $48,000.
Interestingly, there's been a marked rise in the number of consumers complaining about spam, says Cyberimpact: up from 220,000 in December 2014 to 310,000 as of June 2, 201. Compare this to just 1,000 in July 2014. While businesses might be confused about the legislation, it appears that those on the receiving end of e-mail they consider to be spam are well aware of the rules.
Cyberimpact, naturally, has a vested interest in helping small businesses effectively reach out to their consumers via e-mail, given the nature of its own business. The company says it feels that there should be more education offered around the Bill to allow small businesses to "continue their marketing efforts while being in compliance with the law."
Indeed, a survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) last summer, just before the bill was to come into effect, found that only 15% of small business owners were fully aware of the requirements, and most (62%) had not yet taken steps to comply. For a small business, simply ensuring full compliance, including technical changes needed with newsletters, could cost upwards of $30,000-$50,000. In January, the CRTC also added a new rule to the legislation, making it illegal for a company to install programs, like malware, on someone's computer without consent.
Still don't understand the bill? Read our article that outlines everything you'd need to do to comply and visit the CRTC Website for a checklist and questionnaire, plus other details in plain language.
Photo by Stuart Miles; freedigitalphotos.net