Canada’s long-anticipated Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) came into effect July 1, ushering in a new era for online marketing. However, new survey data from Constant Contact reveals that the majority of Canadian small businesses do not fully understand the law and how to be compliant and have taken limited action to date to adhere to the new regulations. Less than half of Canadian small businesses (42%) feel they understand how to be CASL compliant. Just 33% of Canadian small businesses are aware of the penalties associated with CASL non-compliance.
“Despite the fact that CASL came into force July 1, it’s clear that small businesses are behind the curve when it comes to fully understanding the new legislation and what steps they need to take to be compliant,” said Lisa Kember, regional director for Canada East at Constant Contact. “Getting educated is the first step to being CASL compliant, and ultimately, achieving marketing success. Constant Contact has free CASL resources available to help small businesses and organizations, both in terms of education and marketing tools, to enable them to become compliant marketers.”
Delayed CASL Preparations
Despite the long ramp-up to CASL’s enforcement, Canadian small businesses appear to be just starting to adapt their marketing to adhere to CASL regulations. Only 29% of Canadian small businesses surveyed began preparations for CASL before July 1. Another 21% of respondents reported that they would begin preparing soon, while the remaining half was evenly split by small businesses that were either uncertain about when they would begin preparing (25%) or were not planning to make any changes or preparations at all (25%). Time and resources are always an issue for small businesses and, not surprisingly, are playing a role in small businesses’ lack of preparation. One-third of respondents expressed concern about finding the time and resources to ensure CASL compliance.
The small businesses taking steps to prepare for CASL are largely focused on:
- Educating themselves about regulations and how to be compliant (85%)
- Reviewing current email contact lists to ensure proper permissions were in place (59%)
- Keeping records of when, where, and how permission to email was obtained (51%)
Limited action is being taken when it comes to other aspects of CASL compliance:
- 35% of respondents are working to obtain express consent to continue emailing those contacts they had implied permission to contact
- 28% have deleted contacts from their lists if they did not have permission to email them
- 28% have included opt-in check boxes in online transactions allowing customers informed of CASL to join their email lists
- 15% have posted the necessary legal language on physical email list sign-up sheets (e.g., in a store)
When asked to share their biggest concerns about CASL, the following responses rose to the top:
- Feeling uncertain about what needs to be done to comply (44%)
- Collecting express consent for existing lists of email contacts (41%)
- Managing/ tracking email permissions from contacts (39%)
“The relative inaction on the part of small businesses, and their uncertainty about what needs to be done, underscores the need for CASL education,” said Guy Steeves, regional director for Canada West at Constant Contact. “While there is a grace period for some aspects of CASL, all businesses need to be taking action at this point. By focusing on permission-based marketing the way CASL outlines, small businesses will avoid possible penalties and at the same time set themselves up for marketing success.”
Mixed Expectations of CASL’s Impact
Most Canadian small businesses surveyed think CASL will be good for consumers and businesses but are less certain of the direct impact on their own businesses. More than half (63%) think CASL will be good for consumers and 58% of businesses believe CASL will help mitigate spam. Another 44% think CASL is good for businesses in general but when asked if they thought CASL would have a positive impact on their business, only 23% agreed, while 47% were neutral/ had no opinion, 22% disagreed, and 8% did not know.
Sentiments of neutrality and uncertainty also rose to the top when participants were asked specifically about how they thought CASL would impact their business. The majority expect CASL will not impact their profitability, gross revenues, and number of customers.
Impact on Marketing
When asked how CASL will impact their marketing, 43% of respondents said that they do not think it will limit their reach. When asked specifically about CASL’s impact on email marketing activity, most respondents reported that their efforts will remain largely unchanged:
- 45% said they would do the same amount of email marketing
- 20% said that they would do less email marketing
- 4% said that they would stop doing email marketing
- 3% said that they would do more email marketing
“At this point it just seems too soon to tell what the true impact of CASL will be,” said Kember. “From what we have seen in our many years of helping small businesses, those that embrace a permission-based approach are able to achieve stronger results and greater success.”