What does Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) mean for business owners?

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) went into effect on July 1, 2014. CASL was enacted to protect Canadians and to guarantee that Canadian businesses remain competitive globally. This law is committed to having a safer and more secure online marketplace by reducing the risk harmful spam and other electronic threats pose to Canadians.

Who does Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation affect?

CASL mainly affects businesses or companies in Canada that use electronic channels (i.e., using text, email, instant messaging, and social media) to advertise or inform customers of new products or services.

Note: CASL does not apply to any promotional offers and information the business posts online on its website, on social media, or on blogs.

Does CASL mean businesses can’t send commercial electronic messages?

No, CASL allows a business to send messages to customers, but the law does require them get explicit consent from the customer before they send messages. Businesses that already send commercial electronic messages, such as emails, can continue doing so, provided that they can prove they had implied or express consent from the customer at some point.

For new customers, the business is required to obtain the customer’s content. The consent request must explain the following issues clearly:

  • Objective – The request should clearly explain why you would like the customer to give their content (e.g., it may be to inform customers about your products or services or to send customers your newsletters).
  • Contact information –The business is required to provide their contact information (including phone number, mailing address, and email address) within each communication they send.
  • Unsubscribe – The request should also explain how the customer can unsubscribe from the subscription if they ever wish to do so.

Proof of consent must be recorded to prove how and when the consent was issued and whether it was issued orally or in writing.

What is implied consent and when can it be applied?

Implied consent is when a business assumes a customer would not have a problem with receiving an email from them, even though they have not explicitly given their consent. This may be because of:

  • Longstanding and active business relationships – the customer has had a longstanding relationship with the business within the last 2 years or has inquired about products within the last 6 months.
  • Not opted out – The recipient has given the business his/her contact information without clearly indicating that they do not want to receive messages from the business. The CASL does provide an exception in such a case.
  • Publishing contact information – The recipient has published their contact information on a website or on the internet without specifically indicating they would not like to receive any commercial electronic messages.

CASL included a 36-month transition period for businesses to receive express consent from anyone who was on their contact lists prior to July 2014, for whom they did not already have proof of express consent. If you do not already have express consent from everyone on your contact list, you have until June 30, 2017. All express consent received before CASL came into force remains valid and businesses will not have to request those customers’ consent again, unless they have withdrawn their consent.

NOTE: If your business or company is directly affected by Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), it is important to contact a lawyer for legal guidance on how to guarantee your  email marketing, and any other form of commercial electronic messages sent to customers, are in compliance with CASL.