Monday, April 28, 2014

Canada’s New Anti-Spam Law: Are You Ready?

Canada's new Anti-Spam law (CASL) is coming into effect July 1st of this year.  There have been many questions around how the law works and the impact it will have on how businesses can communicate with their clients.  There is a lot of information online.  A web search will reveal articles which discuss the law in detail, but we thought we would offer some highlights to help you in your preparations. 

First off CASL is the way the federal government is tackling the issue of spam.  It lays out the rules for how commercial electronic messages (CEM) are sent. The law was developed to fight spam, hacking, malware/spyware, fraud, email harvesting and privacy invasions.  This law applies to Canadian businesses and also businesses in other countries.  If you are an American company who sends a newsletter or sales offers to Canadian recipients, the law would also apply to you. (see article for US companies)

Definition of Commercial Electronic Message

"A commercial electronic message is any electronic message that encourages participation in a commercial activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit."

Some Key Obligations

  •  You must obtain permission (consent) before sending an email.  Below are the two types of consent:
    • Express consent is the communication agreement you have with an individual client, or stakeholder. If these contacts have had a business transaction with you in the last two years, they are deemed to have explicitly agreed to receive electronic communications from you.  Any recipients whose last transaction is more than two years ago must be contacted for express consent.
    • Implied consent on the other hand is a tentative agreement between you and a prospective client or other stakeholder.  They may have attended an information session, or dropped a business card off at your booth at a tradeshow.  This agreement has an expiry date, which means you have just six months from the date of the initial contact to connect with them.  After six months, if you don't have express consent, you must stop communication.*
  • You will need to track when and how you received permission so that you can prove it if ever questioned.  You may also have to re-obtain permission every two years.
  • Pre checked boxes are not allowed on any forms.
  • The sender's name must be clearly displayed.
  • An active mailing address must be included along with one of the following: web address, email address or phone number.
  • An easy to use unsubscribe option must be included in all messages and any unsubscribe requests must be processed within 10 days.
  •  If you are sending on behalf of another company, both businesses must be clearly identified.


For violating the law penalties can range from 1 million dollars for individuals to 10 million dollars for companies.

What you can do to prepare:

  • Get consent.
  •  Prepare your database so that you can track in detail when you received consent, how your received it and when you will need to reconfirm consent.
  •  Be sure your subject lines and sender names are correct, clearly visible, accurate and consistent.
  • Always have a working unsubscribe link and valid contact details so someone can contact you if they want to.
  • Visit the government's official CASL website: for full details, call their info line at 1-800-328-6189 and check out the following link from Industry Canada.

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