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UPDATE: This post was originally published in 2012 and has been updated for 2017. 

If you send emails to Canada, you should already be familiar with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) that went into effect in 2014. What you may not realize is that the built-in grace period for businesses is about to end and the full law enforced. With fines of up to $10 million CAD in place for non-compliance, it’s a very costly law to get on the wrong side of.

According to Litmus, more than a quarter of email marketers say that CASL has had a dramatic or significant impact on their email program. And there are a few more changes yet to come.

Now is a good time for a refresher on what CASL currently covers and the parts of the law that are about to change.

CASL as of July 2014

CASL has been in effect for a few years now. Here’s a run-down of what your emails should already contain to be in compliance:

  1. Consent – First, you must ensure you have consent, either express or implied, to send a marketing email to a potential email recipient. The CASL requirements focus on how senders gain permission to email subscribers in the first place, and best practice dictates that the sender should retain some record that proves the sender has received this permission.Express consent means that the potential email recipient has clearly agreed, and indicated such agreement through a proactive action or explicit indication (such as opting in via a sender’s website), to receive marketing emails. Under the law, when obtaining express consent, a sender must state:

    ◦ The purpose, or purposes for which consent/permission is being sought (e.g., to send marketing messages via email);

    ◦ Identity of the person seeking consent and, if the person is seeking consent on behalf of another person: 1) the identity of the person on whose behalf consent is sought; 2) that consent is being sought by the seeker on behalf of such other person, and, if applicable, 3) the names by which such other person carries on business;
    ◦ contact information as prescribed by the statute;
    ◦ A statement that the person whose consent is sought can withdraw consent by contacting the contact information; and any other prescribed information that may be required.

    Implied consent means that the potential email recipient has impliedly agreed to receive marketing emails because of an existing business relationship with the sender (for example the recipient is the sender’s customer). If you’re a Campaign Monitor customer, you’re also required to already have express consent to email your contacts as per our anti-spam policies, in most instances.  The exception being paying customers who have purchased services or goods from you, in which case you will need to ensure you confirm with them you have their consent to continue emailing them, as per CASL requirements.

    Note that the definition of ‘existing business relationship’ is itself quite nuanced under CASL and you should review it carefully before assuming that a relationship qualifies as an ‘existing business relationship’ for the purpose of implied consent. A solid record-keeping mechanism will be especially important for senders relying on implied consent as a basis for sending marketing emails.

    The Canadian government has created this handy infographic to help understand how consent works with CASL.

  2. Identification – The second major requirement is that marketing email campaigns include information that personally identifies the sender. This information must be correct for at least 60 days after the message is sent. Contact information should include a name or company name, postal address, an email address or phone number that you can be contacted on. Also, the ‘From’ address on your email should be real and regularly monitored.
  3. Unsubscribe – Your marketing emails are required to have an easy-to-find unsubscribe link that is active for 60 days after the email has been sent. Also, all unsubscribe requests must be fulfilled no longer than ten business days after the request, with no further action on the part of the email recipient or cost to the recipient.
  4. Content – In addition to the prescribed contents set out above, the content of each marketing email, including the subject line, sender information, any URLs, any metadata must true, accurate, and not misleading.

CASL Changes as of July 2017

With the expiration of the transitional period for businesses to make sure their subscriber lists are CASL compliant, companies will now have to ensure that any individuals on their subscriber lists who impliedly consented to receive marketing emails are removed upon expiration of their two-year implied consent validity period. If someone has made a purchase, for example, and you are relying on implied consent to send them marketing emails, then you can email them only for two years after the purchase date. If they haven’t given you express consent by then, they must be removed from the list. Express consent is valid until the email recipient requests to unsubscribe or revokes consent in some way.

There’s one more piece of the law that was set to go into effect on the same date, called Private Right of Action. This would have allowed people to sue senders if they break the CASL laws. As of June 2, 2017, this portion of the law has been temporarily suspended and likely won’t be implemented any time soon– but make sure to visit the Government of Canada’s site on the topic to stay on top of current developments on CASL.

Wrap up

This Canadian law may have been dubbed ‘the toughest anti-spam law the world has ever seen,’ but in reality, it’s fairly easy for legitimate senders to comply with. Many major email service providers, including Campaign Monitor, have sending policies that typically meet or exceed CASL requirements.

It’s worth taking the opportunity to review your subscribe forms and other channels by which you allow subscribers to opt-in to your lists, to make sure they follow CASL’s requirements.

For more information, check out the Government of Canada Justice Laws website.

  • CRS

    “If you, or your clients send email into Canada” – not true – the new laws don’t affect foreign companies – it can only apply to Canadian companies. A country’s law cannot extend past its borders (unless you’re the FBI of course :P).

  • CRS

    “If you, or your clients send email into Canada” – not true – the new laws don’t affect foreign companies – it can only apply to Canadian companies. A country’s law cannot extend past its borders (unless you’re the FBI of course :P).

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hey there CRS, I’m not a lawyer, but Fasken Martineu’s commentary suggests otherwise:

    “FISA (ie. the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) sets out rules that must be followed by anyone sending an “electronic message” that is sent or accessed from a computer system in Canada.[23] As a consequence, electronic communications sent from computer systems located and controlled from outside of Canada may come under the jurisdiction of FISA, if a computer system located in Canada either accesses, or has routed through it, the message. This provides a wide jurisdictional scope to FISA.”

    Considering the US has previously extradited spammers, this shouldn’t be particularly welcome news to the bad folks, eh? :)

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hey there CRS, I’m not a lawyer, but Fasken Martineu’s commentary suggests otherwise:

    “FISA (ie. the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) sets out rules that must be followed by anyone sending an “electronic message” that is sent or accessed from a computer system in Canada.[23] As a consequence, electronic communications sent from computer systems located and controlled from outside of Canada may come under the jurisdiction of FISA, if a computer system located in Canada either accesses, or has routed through it, the message. This provides a wide jurisdictional scope to FISA.”

    Considering the US has previously extradited spammers, this shouldn’t be particularly welcome news to the bad folks, eh? :)

  • Adam

    Guys… please change the font to black. It’s much easier to read than this grey one.

  • Adam

    Guys… please change the font to black. It’s much easier to read than this grey one.

  • evil-Adam

    Guys… please change the font to papyrus. It looks much better in grey.

  • evil-Adam

    Guys… please change the font to papyrus. It looks much better in grey.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hah, fellas please… Papyrus? Comic sans, my friends. ;) I’ll pass on your feedback to our design folks – we’ll see what can be done. Thanks for your feedback!

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hah, fellas please… Papyrus? Comic sans, my friends. ;) I’ll pass on your feedback to our design folks – we’ll see what can be done. Thanks for your feedback!

  • James Lamb

    Does most BlackBerry traffic still flow through Canada?

    (agree on black font – looks great here as I type)

  • James Lamb

    Does most BlackBerry traffic still flow through Canada?

    (agree on black font – looks great here as I type)

  • Dan Johnson

    I’ve seen that enforcement for this law is now set to begin July 1, 2014. Assuming that means the 3-year transition period for limited exceptions ends July 1, 2017. Sounds like that gives us some time to collect affirmative permission on any questionable records.

    Any updates on how this may be enforced or any new interpretations?

  • Dan Johnson

    I’ve seen that enforcement for this law is now set to begin July 1, 2014. Assuming that means the 3-year transition period for limited exceptions ends July 1, 2017. Sounds like that gives us some time to collect affirmative permission on any questionable records.

    Any updates on how this may be enforced or any new interpretations?

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Hi Dan, our advice to people with questionable subscriber permission is to either a) don’t send, or b) send a re-engagement campaign first. Email service provider policies (like our anti-spam one) tend to be as strict (if not stricter) than many national spam laws, so if you’re sending, it’s advisable to be sure of your permission now, not later. :)

  • Kelly Patchet

    Email is just the tip of the iceberg here in Canada when it comes to CASL – it goes way, way beyond that to all computer programs (including in cars and appliances). I’ve been saying for a while, the email bit is just catching up to what CM expects anyway but the rest is a huge and convoluted mess that most companies won’t be able to comply with. #absurd

  • Kelly Patchet

    Email is just the tip of the iceberg here in Canada when it comes to CASL – it goes way, way beyond that to all computer programs (including in cars and appliances). I’ve been saying for a while, the email bit is just catching up to what CM expects anyway but the rest is a huge and convoluted mess that most companies won’t be able to comply with. #absurd

  • Andrew Boardman

    Great forward-looking post, CM, as always. If you could keep us up to date on all things CASL from your point of view, we’d appreciate it. The legislation is pretty new (or will be on July 1, 2014) and all businesses and organizations here need to comply.

  • Andrew Boardman

    Great forward-looking post, CM, as always. If you could keep us up to date on all things CASL from your point of view, we’d appreciate it. The legislation is pretty new (or will be on July 1, 2014) and all businesses and organizations here need to comply.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Thank you, Andrew. We’ll most certainly keep an eye on things here and post in our blog / update this resource if conditions change.

  • Ros Hodgekiss

    Thank you, Andrew. We’ll most certainly keep an eye on things here and post in our blog / update this resource if conditions change.

  • Deborah Edwards-Onoro

    One of my Twitter followers is a member of a social media group in Vancouver, Canada. At their May meeting, an attorney told the group that sending the unsubscribe confirmation message (you’re been unsubscribed from this list, etc.) to the person who unsubscribed is a violation of CASL.

    I’ve searched, but haven’t found anything that confirms that’s true. I know many mailing lists send that unsubscribe confirmation message as a default. Do you have any background on this issue?

  • Deborah Edwards-Onoro

    One of my Twitter followers is a member of a social media group in Vancouver, Canada. At their May meeting, an attorney told the group that sending the unsubscribe confirmation message (you’re been unsubscribed from this list, etc.) to the person who unsubscribed is a violation of CASL.

    I’ve searched, but haven’t found anything that confirms that’s true. I know many mailing lists send that unsubscribe confirmation message as a default. Do you have any background on this issue?

  • Chris Bowler

    Hi Deborah,

    That’s a great question! You can review the documentation provided by the government of Canada here: http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/00258.html But that is the first time I’ve heard of this after reading a good bit of documentation.

    Most tools that provide an unsubscribe mechanism redirect the user to a web based confirmation page rather than sending another email. This is how our service works and may be why you don’t see a lot of writing on the topic.

  • Chris Bowler

    Hi Deborah,

    That’s a great question! You can review the documentation provided by the government of Canada here: http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/00258.html But that is the first time I’ve heard of this after reading a good bit of documentation.

    Most tools that provide an unsubscribe mechanism redirect the user to a web based confirmation page rather than sending another email. This is how our service works and may be why you don’t see a lot of writing on the topic.

  • Deborah

    Thanks Chris. Yes, I’ve visited that site. I still haven’t found any supporting documentation to indicate it’s a violation. Trying to get more info from the Meetup group.

    Good to know your service directs to a web page. Do Campaign Monitor clients have option to send an unsubscribe email message?

  • Deborah

    Thanks Chris. Yes, I’ve visited that site. I still haven’t found any supporting documentation to indicate it’s a violation. Trying to get more info from the Meetup group.

    Good to know your service directs to a web page. Do Campaign Monitor clients have option to send an unsubscribe email message?

  • Stephen Jesson

    Hi Deborah,

    Thanks for following up and no problem at all, we’re happy to help!

    Just to clarify, we do not allow the sending of an unsubscription confirmation email at this time, however it is possible to send individuals to a custom unsubscription confirmation page, as per:
    https://help.campaignmonitor.com/confirmation-pages-subscribe-unsubscribe

    Thanks again and hope that helps!

  • Mylene Bruneau

    In Canada, many big companies are now sending emails to their list, asking the customer to click to confirm they still want to be on the sending list, a great way if you are not sure about your list. Here’s my question : is there a way to do that with Campaign Monitor ? An email that would say Click here to confirm your subscription. As an example, I got one from Sony. When I click, it directs me to a page asking yes or no. That page manages the mailing list I suppose… How to do that with CM ? Thank you. Example link : https://customer.sony.ca/crm/Subscribe.do?bpguid=42ED7E0D66891C31E10000002B9E0A12&langId=-1

  • Mylene Bruneau

    In Canada, many big companies are now sending emails to their list, asking the customer to click to confirm they still want to be on the sending list, a great way if you are not sure about your list. Here’s my question : is there a way to do that with Campaign Monitor ? An email that would say Click here to confirm your subscription. As an example, I got one from Sony. When I click, it directs me to a page asking yes or no. That page manages the mailing list I suppose… How to do that with CM ? Thank you. Example link : https://customer.sony.ca/crm/Subscribe.do?bpguid=42ED7E0D66891C31E10000002B9E0A12&langId=-1

  • Chris Bowler

    Hi Mylene,

    Thanks for the question. Yes, you are able to set up a reconfirmation campaign with your Campaign Monitor account. You can read how to do that here:

    https://help.campaignmonitor.com/subscription-reconfirmation-email

    I hope that helps!

  • Chris Bowler

    Hi Mylene,

    Thanks for the question. Yes, you are able to set up a reconfirmation campaign with your Campaign Monitor account. You can read how to do that here:

    https://help.campaignmonitor.com/subscription-reconfirmation-email

    I hope that helps!

  • Michael

    Can express consent be acquired by having the potential client reply to my consent email by saying “Yes, I consent” in the subject field?

  • Michael

    Can express consent be acquired by having the potential client reply to my consent email by saying “Yes, I consent” in the subject field?

  • Mylene

    Thank you Chris, I followed the steps in that link, but it doesn’t work. I put that link in the email (http://campagnecourriel.siatris.qc.ca/t/1/s/d/?cm-tktyei-tktyei=%5Bemail%5D&cm-name=%5Bfullname, fallback=]) but when I send the test, the link goes on an error page ; Invalid Email Address
    Sorry, but the email address you supplied was invalid and needs to be fixed before you can subscribe to this list. I tried with random recipient AND fallback terms AND writing it in the url direct. Nothing works…

  • Mylene

    Thank you Chris, I followed the steps in that link, but it doesn’t work. I put that link in the email (http://campagnecourriel.siatris.qc.ca/t/1/s/d/?cm-tktyei-tktyei=%5Bemail%5D&cm-name=%5Bfullname, fallback=]) but when I send the test, the link goes on an error page ; Invalid Email Address
    Sorry, but the email address you supplied was invalid and needs to be fixed before you can subscribe to this list. I tried with random recipient AND fallback terms AND writing it in the url direct. Nothing works…

  • Chris Bowler

    Hi Mylene,

    You’ll definitely want to get in touch with our support team then and we can look into things for you: https://help.campaignmonitor.com/

  • Chris Bowler

    Hi Mylene,

    You’ll definitely want to get in touch with our support team then and we can look into things for you: https://help.campaignmonitor.com/

  • Mylene

    Thank you Chris, your help email solved it!

    A reminder to fellow Canadian users : the law will be effective and applied starting July 1st, 2014. This is the link to the detailed law: http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/h_00050.html

  • Mylene

    Thank you Chris, your help email solved it!

    A reminder to fellow Canadian users : the law will be effective and applied starting July 1st, 2014. This is the link to the detailed law: http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/h_00050.html

  • Chris Bowler

    That’s great to hear, Mylene. Thanks for following up!

  • Chris Bowler

    That’s great to hear, Mylene. Thanks for following up!

  • Ian Russell

    All the subscribers on our list would have opted in at some point. Some of them may have done so several years ago, but they would have received many emails with an opt-out message since.

    Since I am pretty confident about our subscriber list, and since subscribers will all have the option to unsubscribe from the email, I’m not sure why I would spam them with a new confirmation email right now.

    My inbox is filled with this things from worried companies. Is it mandatory to send out a confirmation email, or is this just misinformation spreading?

  • Ian Russell

    All the subscribers on our list would have opted in at some point. Some of them may have done so several years ago, but they would have received many emails with an opt-out message since.

    Since I am pretty confident about our subscriber list, and since subscribers will all have the option to unsubscribe from the email, I’m not sure why I would spam them with a new confirmation email right now.

    My inbox is filled with this things from worried companies. Is it mandatory to send out a confirmation email, or is this just misinformation spreading?

  • Tash Sallie

    Hey Ian,

    Prior express consent actually still applies, meaning subscribers who explicitly
    agreed to regular emails from you will not need to give permission a second time.

    The confirmation is recommended if you’re unsure whether all of your recipients have specifically agreed to receive regular emails.

  • Tash Sallie

    Hey Ian,

    Prior express consent actually still applies, meaning subscribers who explicitly
    agreed to regular emails from you will not need to give permission a second time.

    The confirmation is recommended if you’re unsure whether all of your recipients have specifically agreed to receive regular emails.

  • Ian Russell

    Thanks Tash! I think that people are generally being overzealous about it then. I don’t think I’ll harass our recipients.

  • Ian Russell

    Thanks Tash! I think that people are generally being overzealous about it then. I don’t think I’ll harass our recipients.

This blog provides general information and discussion about email marketing and related subjects. The content provided in this blog ("Content”), should not be construed as and is not intended to constitute financial, legal or tax advice. You should seek the advice of professionals prior to acting upon any information contained in the Content. All Content is provided strictly “as is” and we make no warranty or representation of any kind regarding the Content.
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