If the new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) has you upside down in confusion, you're not alone.
The part of CASL that seems to be the most confusing for business people is how it affects their current mailing list. The answer is not especially straightforward because the regulations spell out the law... and then there are supporting documents which help to explain what the law means and how to be compliant. By their nature, those supporting documents provide interpretations, and those interpretations will become more explicit as the law is brought into effect. As such, the following is my informed opinion and best advice. (Consider this my disclaimer: I’m not a lawyer.)
To ask your current subscribers to re-opt-in... or not
How many emails have you already received asking you to re-opt-in to a mailing list that you have already subscribed to? Kind of pain, isn't it? How many have you re-subscribed to? I bet not all of them.
Even before you understand the details needed to make an informed decision about asking your subscribers to re-opt-in (or not), you should know the impact of that decision.
If you ask your current contacts to re-opt-in, what percentage of your subscribers do you think will do that? I’ll give you a hint: it’ll be less than your average open rate. You will lose some regular readers, even more of those occasional readers, and all of the people who only remember you because they see you in their inbox when they delete your message. Note that you can only send one message to ask people to re-opt-in. If they don’t, you can’t ask again.
What to do right now... or not
You have until July 1st, 2017, to seek ‘express’ consent from your mailing list. During this 3 year period, if you do not already have ‘express’ consent, it is ‘implied’.
That means you can stop thinking about this decision now. Put an entry in your calendar for February 1st, 2017, to “decide to seek express consent or not”. Five months to decide and act, or not – plenty of time.
This is the advice I'm giving my clients and also following myself: do nothing... at least in the short term. A lot can happen in 3 years: your contacts will change, CASL will become better explained, and maybe your business situation will change, too.
In future articles, I’ll write more about the different types of consent – implied and express – and what you need to know to make an informed decision. For now, you really don’t have to make any decision about your current list. You do need to become compliant with the other aspects of CASL though!