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Ken Magill

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Got Canadians? Better Uncheck Those Boxes


By Ken Magill

In another fine example of why lawmakers shouldn’t legislate permission in email marketing comes news that the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission last week issued a clarification to Canada’s anti spam law banning prechecked permission boxes.

“The Commission considers that in order to comply with the express consent provisions under the [Canadian anti-spam] Act, a positive or explicit indication of consent is required,” the clarification said. “Accordingly, express consent cannot be obtained through opt-out consent mechanisms.”

Translation: When getting consent to send email, don’t precheck permission boxes.

The problem with lawmakers legislating permission is they then must define what permission is.

The Canadian anti spam law—a law we still have no idea when it will go into effect—was passed in December … of 2010. It took the commission just one month short of two years to inform marketers that prechecked boxes are incompatible with it.

What’s more, it took the commission 569 words and three illustrations to say it.

Think of all the time Canadian taxpayers paid members of the commission to decide whether or not prechecked email permission boxes were okay and then craft a document explaining their position that they’re not.

And this was just over prechecked boxes for Pete’s sake. Think of all the other issues surrounding permission and it’s clear the amount of time Canadian commissioners have and will likely spend on picayune issues is staggering.

In fact, on the same day the commission released a clarification about prechecked boxes, it released another clarification with, among other things, 1,055 words dedicated to defining permission.

Of course, the argument could be made that as long as they’re spending time on stupidity such as the issue of prechecked email permission boxes and the like, they aren’t screwing anything really important up.

But not only are they wasting time, they’re wasting the time of every executive who must read and comply with their ever-evolving interpretations of the law. That big kaching! sound you hear is the sound of millions of dollars being flushed down the toilet over a non-issue—money that could be spent developing and marketing new products and hiring new people.

I am not advocating unsolicited email. I never have. And anyone who accesses my content through a newsletter subscription knows I employ fully confirmed opt-in, the gold standard in list building techniques.

Thing is, we don’t need any more legislation from any country to battle spam. The technologists at the various inbox providers and blocklist maintainers such as Spamhaus are doing the job no new piece of legislation could ever accomplish.

Think about it: Is spam a problem in your inbox? If you’re one of the three people who may have said “yes,” get a Gmail account.

If the Canadian anti spam law ever does go into effect, it will do absolutely nothing in the battle against unsolicited email.

It will only needlessly complicate matters for law-abiding marketers.


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