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). 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.

Marketers must ensure prior to sending a CEM to:

  • Have consent (or meet an exception in CASL) to email the individuals on your list(s).
  • Indicate in the email the sender of the email along with contact details.
  • Include an unsubscribe mechanism and have a system to action unsubscribe requests in a timely manner.
  • Are not providing 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 commercial electronic messaging requirements, key elements, special cases and practical considerations.

CMA Members Download Now

DOWNLOAD PDF (415 KB)

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 www.fightspam.gc.ca

The consequences for a violation of CASL as it pertains to sending commercial electronic messages 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, so marketers should familiarize themselves with their obligations pertaining to CASL.

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