AAM introduces new programs for CASL compliance

The new legislation would take effect July 1 and would require advertisers to gain more explicit consent.

With the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) officially taking effect in July following a three year transition period, the Alliance of Audited Media (AAM) has introduced two new programs to help the industry meet the new standards.

The programs were designed as part of a collaboration between the AAM and Derek Lackey, president of the Direct Marketing Association of Canada (DMAC). The aim of both initiatives is getting marketers up to speed when it comes to compliance with the laws. The CASL Compliance program will serve as a ground-up, step-by-step program to bring advertisers into compliance, whereas the CASL Gap Analysis program is directed at companies that are already in the process of implementing CASL requirements, and will audit and evaluate those processes.

One of the rules that Lackey said is the hardest for advertisers to grasp in his experience with DMAC is that they now need to provide proof that individuals explicitly consent to wanting to receive emails.

“What most people think is that if they’ve been emailing someone for years and they haven’t complained, that’s consent,” he told¬†MiC.¬†“It’s not. Consent is consent.”

He said that many people think that they are compliant, and that DMAC will often challenge the advertisers to pick 10 random names on their email list and show proof of their consent. “In many cases, they can’t provide proof for three out of 10.”

Joan Brehl, VP and GM of AAM, echoed the notion that “everyone thinks they’re compliant. The reality is, record-keeping is critical to this new legislation. If you don’t have those records for the CRTC, they’ll consider you non-compliant.”

Fines for violating CASL can be up to $10 million. Originally the Government of Canada included a private right of action provision which would allow individuals to sue advertisers for alleged violation that was also to go live in July. However, that element of the legislation has been suspended as of June 7 following concerns from businesses, charities and non-profits.

CASL also addresses advertisers that target individuals with email marketing after they agree to terms and conditions in exchange for services like wi-fi. The practice has been criticized by some for burying terms in long documents several thousand words long. Now, advertisers would need to include clear contact information and an explicit opt-out message, as well as stating what kind of emails the person would receive, all adjacent to the space where email addresses would be entered.

“You cannot bury consent in the midst of seven pages of privacy policy and expect reasonably to be able to claim that that person gave you consent,” said Lackey. “You know they didn’t read that.”

Brehl said that while the CASL legislation may scare some advertisers into no longer believing that email marketing is effective, smaller lists don’t necessarily mean less engagement. “These guidelines will actually make for more high-quality lists. It’s good business practices.”

Lackey added that DMAC clients who had adopted the new guidelines had seen rises in engagement, from an average of 17% open-rate to more than 40%.

The two AAM programs are now available for sign-up.