Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

What Marketers Need to Know

Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) protects consumers and businesses from the misuse of digital technology, including spam and other electronic threats.

Of particular importance for marketers, CASL prohibits the sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages (CEMs) and applies to anyone sending CEMs to Canadians (from inside or outside Canada). A CEM is a commercial email, or a message sent electronically that encourages participation in a commercial activity. This includes, but is not limited to email, SMS/text messaging and private messages on social networking platforms.

Prior to sending a CEM, marketers must ensure:

  • That they have consent (or meet an exception in CASL) to email or message the individuals on your list(s).
  • That the email identifies  the sender of the email along with contact details.
  • That the email includes an unsubscribe mechanism, and that a  process is in place to action unsubscribe requests in a timely manner (within 10 business days).
  • That the CEM does not provide misleading or false information.

In addition to the anti-spam provisions in the Canadian Marketing Code of Ethics & Standards, the CMA offers a comprehensive Guide to CASL, which provides members with an overview of the law’s CEM requirements, key elements, special cases and practical Q&As for marketing related activities.

CASL enforcement is a shared responsibility:

  • The sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages (CEMs), the alteration of transmission data and the installation of software without consent is regulated by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC).
  • False or misleading representations and deceptive marketing practices in the electronic marketplace is regulated by the Competition Bureau.

CASL came into force, with respect to its commercial electronic messaging rules, on July 1, 2014. Effective July 1, 2017 CASL’s transition period for implied consents no longer applies. In June 2017 CASL’s Private Right of Action (PRA) provision was indefinitely suspended. While the PRA still exists as part of the law, this announcement was positive as there are widespread concerns about the potential negative impacts.

For more information on CASL from the Government of Canada, visit

The consequences for violating CASL are significant. The CRTC may issue notices of violation, Administrative Monetary Penalties (AMP), injunctions, undertakings or impose a negotiated settlement. CASL violations can carry significant monetary penalties with fines of up to $1 million for individual offenders and up to $10 million for companies for each infraction.

Non-compliance with CASL could cause significant harm to an organization’s reputation and financial well-being.

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