How To Avoid a $10 million Dollar Fine When E-mail Marketing

by Gina Hamilton February 7th, 2014 
busted

Busted! Photo by kateausburn

So you've been collecting e-mail addresses from clients and prospects over the years and from time to time e-mailing them your monthly or quarterly newsletter or latest promotion. Sounds fairly harmless right? Wrong!

Starting July 2014, most of Canada's anti-spam law (CASL) will to come into effect. Its conception started in 2010 and was drafted mainly to avoid address harvesting and mass spamming but will effect legitimate businesses who may be unaware they are breaking the law. What this will mean for your company among other things is that you will need to get either explicit or implied consent from your contacts before sending them information or commercial electronic message (CEM). When I say "sending", this not only includes e-mailing but SMS, text and even social media such as Facebook and Twitter.

If you don't comply, penalties can be as hefty as 10 million dollars and if you're an individual, one million. Also beware of class action lawsuits and statutory damages.

What if you're e-mailing existing clients your newsletters but didn't get express consent? Are you safe? Fortunately, there is a small window of exceptions that apply, this being one of them.

How Do Marketing Automation Software Companies Play A Role?

Many of them such as Hubspot, Eloqua and Pardot already have implemented guidelines around e-mailing and consent, their strictness varies between. And because they are American owned, they follow CAN-SPAM whose laws vary slightly to our CASL. One main differentiator is CASL enforces opt-in permission based e-mailing while American CAN-SPAM enforces having opt-out option.

It's a general rule of thumb contact lists degrade 25% every year so be sure to keep your e-mail fresh and current. One way to do so is to keep in touch with your contacts on a regular basis but not too frequently and of course sending highly targeted relevant information helps too. If you find they're not even opening any of your e-mails, you can send a "break up" e-mail giving them the option to select "continue receiving our information". Why would you voluntarily want to give your recipients an "out", you ask? Effective e-mail marketing has to earn the interests of its audience in order to be true inbound marketing. If your recipient doesn't find your e-mails of value, you've got the wrong person.

Having proper consent from your e-mail recipients will not only prevent you from getting an investigation from your marketing automation tool which can have flags to detect unusually high bounce rates and the like or worse yet, receiving a complaint from a recipient (which by the way, would give them full right to ban you from using their e-mail service altogether), it would also help you from getting a federal charge with a seriously hefty fine if found guilty.

What's The Lesson? Send E-mails To Those Who "Want" It.

Permission can be garnered in a few ways by; dropping a business card into bowl with a sign "be on our e-mail list" at a conference, filling in a form online, written or verbal consent or having done business with you in the last two years.

Gina Hamilton

Gina is an Account Manager at Search Engine People who enjoys intersecting her clients business needs with digital marketing solutions. She is also an avid foodie and soccer mom.

You May Also Like

4 Responses to “How To Avoid a $10 million Dollar Fine When E-mail Marketing”

  1. Jeff Womack says:

    The government has barely enough time to catch real criminals. Legitimate marketers, NOT SPAMMERS will likely be given a pass. I'll believe it when I see it.

    • Gina says:

      I would agree the law is intended for spammers however it just takes one complaint at CASL's Spam Reporting Centre when it opens in July 2014 for it to be investigated.

  2. Attila Szaloki says:

    Hi Gina,

    I just started email marketing for my affiliate business and have a question. If the email campaign start with a confirm letter when the subscriber "sign" yes I want to get emails from you is that enough to avoid fine?

    Waiting answer

    Thank You

    Attila

    • Gina says:

      Ideally permission should be granted first before the person is e-mailed. Your confirm e-mail is not a bad measure however I can't speak on behalf of CASL enforcers and how they would treat a complaint if one was lodged.