Impact of Canada’s New Anti-Spam Laws (CASL) on Ecommerce

Although we can’t provide any legal advice, this post aims to give you our interpretation of how Canada’s new anti-spam legislation may affect Ecommerce marketers. For specific advice for your store, we recommend you consult an attorney.

On July 1st, 2014, Canada’s new anti-spam legislation (CASL) comes into place, and with it brings the strictest anti-spam laws in the world.  While this sounds scary, this new law generally enforces the best practices that most Ecommerce stores are already following: people should have chosen to receive your emails (i.e. opt-in), unsubscribing should be easy, and lists should be cleaned to remove old purchasers.

That said, for abandoned carts and newsletters in particular, below we walk through a few ways CASL will likely impact your store. We’ll update this post as there is new information.

At Klaviyo, we believe that email (and marketing generally) is a contract of sorts: your customers choose to get your emails, and they’ll keep making that choice as the emails you send them are great and make their lives better.

An Overview of CASL and Ecommerce Emails

At its core, our interpretation is that CASL strengthens requirements on making sure your recipients have agreed to receive your emails (and you need to know how they agreed to receive your email).

  • What CASL does: CASL requires that marketers have consent from recipients to send them email.  There are both explicit and implicit ways to get consent. Additionally, the marketer needs to have record of when and how a recipient gave their consent.  In short: you can only send email to people who have proactively chosen to get your email.
  • What counts as explicit consent: This consent needs to be opt-in. For most stores, this just reinforces the same standards already required by Klaviyo (and most email service providers): your recipients need to have chosen to have received your email and you need to provide them a clear way to stop receiving your emails.
  • What counts as implicit consent: An existing business relationship. For Ecommerce stores, this can be a purchase. One key thing to note is that implicit consent only lasts for two years unless it is given again.
  • Who CASL applies to: any store with Canadian recipients on their email list or Canadian customers. In general, we’d expect it to apply to nearly every store of even moderate size.

How CASL affects Ecommerce Stores

CASL will affect Ecommerce stores in a few specific ways:

CASL and Newsletters

For newsletters, CASL reinforces the requirements of CAN-SPAM and other spam legislation:

  • Clear unsubscribes that must be honored within 10 days.
  • No deceptive subject lines
  • Be clear about which company is sending the email.
  • A physical address included in your emails
  • A way to contact you (phone, email, address)

Additionally, two key requirements in your newsletter sign-up forms:

  • Clearly state that the user is signing up for your newsletter list.  For example, if you are using a pop-up that gives a discount, it needs to be clear that newsletters will be sent.
  • No pre-checked sign-up boxes for consent. The user needs to proactively choose to get your newsletter (or to make a purchase).

CASL and your Current Lists

For subscribers who joined your newsletter lists before the law goes into effect, you don’t need to reconfirm (i.e. get a customer to opt-in to your emails again) if they have given you permission previously.

For implicit consent (i.e. for most stores, this means someone joined your list because they made a purchase), you have until July 1st, 2017 to get consent (but after that point you’d need to stop emailing them.  For people who give implicit consent after July 1st, 2014 you have two years during which you can email them.

In short: you shouldn’t need to re-confirm subscribers, but starting July 1st, 2017, you do need to take people off of your newsletter if they haven’t explicitly chosen to be on it or have made another purchase.

CASL and Abandoned Carts

Shopping cart abandonment emails are the biggest gray area under CASL and an area where we recommend each store owner decide on themselves until there is a clear position under the law.

If you choose to restrict abandoned cart reminders to customers who have clearly given consent, Klaviyo makes it easy to filter who gets your abandoned cart emails by sending only to customers who either:

  • Have given consent (either they are on your newsletter or they have made a purchase).
  • Are not Canadian

More broadly, we’ve seen that targeting abandoned cart emails based on who someone is (for example, whether they’ve bought before) can be a very effective way to increase their effectiveness. While abandoned cart emails may be a gray area, what’s not allowed is adding people who start checkouts but don’t finish purchasing to your newsletter list.

As we believe there’s a clear position on abandoned cart emails, we’ll update this post.

CASL and Order Follow-ups / Cross-sell / Win-backs

These should be unaffected though it’s important to make sure they include unsubscribe links, your address, etc. These messages are allowed because CASL considers purchases to be a way of providing implicit consent (as long as it was within 2 years).

It is important that these unsubscribes be applied universally – so if a customer is unsubscribing from marketing emails, you need to make sure this unsubscribe is applied to newsletters too. This is automatic for Klaviyo but might not be if you are using one platform for newsletters and other apps or tools for these targeted emails.

Ecommerce Checklist for compliance with CASL

As a starting point, here’s a simple checklist to confirm your CASL compliance (based on our interpretation). As you dive deeper, there are more resources listed below with checklists on compliance.

  1. Do newsletter sign-up forms clearly state someone is signing up for the newsletter?
  2. Are all newsletter sign-ups opt-in (i.e. you have any pre-checked boxes
  3. Going forward, do you have a process in place to remove all customers older than 2 years from your mailing list if they haven’t explicitly joined it?
  4. If you do decide to change abandoned cart emails, have you added filters to your abandoned carts to only target customers who have given consent or who aren’t Canadian?
  5. Do all templates include an unsubscribe link, a physical address and an email or phone number where you can be contacted?
  6. Do your unsubscribes remove customers from all marketing emails? (i.e. if I unsubscribe from an email retargeting campaign, am I removed from the newsletter too?)

Ecommerce Newsletters and Automated Emails in the Future

The important thing to remember is that CASL essentially prevents lots of spammy emailers from bombarding your customers, while also just strengthening email best practices of ensuring customers want to get your emails.

At Klaviyo, we believe email will continue to move away from batch and blast newsletters (everyone gets the same message and marketers are focused on building list size as large as possible) to higher quality messages targeted at specific consumers who always have full choice of what they are receiving. As long as you are focused on using email to give your customers a great experience, you should only benefit from new laws.

Other resources on CASL

Questions?

Leave questions in the comments and we’ll do our best to follow-up with our interpretation of what the law means or point you in the direction of other resources.

 

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4 comments

  • If we run an e-commerce business, where site viewers have the option to sign up for our news letters, and are sent a double opt in confirmation email prior to being added to our email lists, do we still have to send a “please confirm your subscription” email prior to July 1st?
    We have always had this practice of customers signing up themselves, they are not automatically entered when they purchase product and we do not ever buy email lists. Everyone has chosen to sign up at one point, and there is always an unsubscribe option in every e-blast we send out. Do we have to send a confirmation email still? If we do send a confirmation email, are we required to clear our email list over the three year transition phase to exclude accounts that didn’t click to confirm?

    • What you have is what they consider ‘express consent’. If you have express consent, you do not need to resend the ‘please confirm your subscription’ e-mail at all as the express consent is still valid.

  • Very nice btw – this is probably the cleanest and most well written post on this I’ve seen anywhere.

  • Are google retargeting cookies placed on a visitors computer CASL compliant?

Comments are closed.