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Don't Let Your Email Marketing Cost You Millions

Melissa Mangold, Cobalt Virtual Marketing Representative
by Melissa Mangold, Virtual Marketing Representative

The world’s toughest anti-spam law will soon be enforced in Canada. Are you in compliance?

At the beginning of 2014, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) went into effect, putting staunch rules and severe penalties around email and text message marketing. (And severe is not an over exaggeration; we’re talking fines of $10 million. Yes, Ten. Million. Dollars!) These harsh penalties will start being enforced July 1 for any violations of these regulations.

I’m not in Canada, why should I care?


While not all US states border Canada, those that do lie along our Northern border should be aware that they may have Canadian customers in their system. If you do live in a border state and make it a habit to email blast your entire database, you could be putting yourself at risk.

This is also an unprecedented attempt to manage electronic messaging, so the world is watching Canada to see how CASL shakes out. What Canada implements today could very easily become the standard among other countries. Better to be aware and safe, than unaware and 10 million dollars poorer.

What is CASL?

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation requires that all commercial electronic messages (CEM) which include email, text messages or messages to a social networking account must have the recipient’s consent. Every CEM must also correctly identify the sender by showing a valid mailing and email address, and include an opt out function. If a recipient complains of a violation of this legislation, the sender holds the responsibility of proving their message was compliant. In other words, if someone complains about your marketing message, you’d better be able to prove you were within your legal rights to approach them with said message.

How do I know who I can email?

Under CASL, you can only email (or text, or tweet, or use any other form of electronic communication with) consenting customers. So how do you know when they’ve given their consent? Well, there are two forms:

  • Implied consent: This version of consent applies to any customer with whom you have an existing relationship. However, there is a time limit on what is considered an “existing relationship”. If they have purchased or serviced a vehicle at your dealership within the last 24 months, they are seen as maintaining a relationship. If they last completed a transaction with your dealership outside of 24 months, your relationship no longer exists, and therefore you cannot contact them electronically.
  • Express consent: This version of consent is directly from the customer, and is written or oral and recorded. This would be the ideal form of consent, however this version is also a little harder to track and provide proof of, if necessary. Once a customer provides express consent, there is no time limit like with implied consent, that is, until the customer opts out.

What if my customer hasn’t implied or expressed consent?

If you don’t have implied or express consent from your customer, just steer clear! (Unless you have a few million bucks lying around.) You could also continue to communicate electronically if the communication is regarding one of the following scenarios:

  • You’re providing a quote in response to their request
  • You're reminding them of their scheduled appointment
  • You’re letting them know their vehicle or special order part is ready for pick-up
  • You’re providing information about a warranty, recall or safety issue
  • You’re providing factual information about a purchase they’ve recently completed

There are  still ways to properly leverage email marketing and make it effective and compliant. Reach out to your email expert for suggestions and best practices before this Canadian law is enforced on July 1, 2014. Be aware if you are a US dealer with Canadian customers in your database.

For a complete interpretation of the law and to ensure your marketing practices are in compliance, please seek legal counsel.

About the Author

Melissa Mangold, Virtual Marketing Representative Melissa Mangoldis a VMR (Virtual Marketing Representative) at ADP, optimizing dealer email & direct mail marketing efforts by analyzing their ROI results, monitoring current industry best practices and gauging current business needs. Her first car was a 1994 Jeep Grand Cherokee, and together they ruled the road (and off-road!). When Melissa is not optimizing dealer marketing campaigns, she is a social media editor for an online magazine. She has a B.A. in Advertising from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign and a Post-baccalaureate certificate in Advertising for Creatives from Northwestern University. Melissa can be reached directly at

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Comment by Melissa Mangold on June 6, 2014 at 1:15pm

Thanks Tom! Important info to share with those that may not be familiar yet with CASL.

Comment by Big Tom LaPointe on June 5, 2014 at 8:59pm
Great piece of info.

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