What Canada’s anti-spam legislation means to you


How much do you know about CASL? Hopefully, if you’re doing any sort of digital communication marketing within the United States, at least a little. But even if this is the first you’re hearing about it, fear not! We’ll walk you through the key points and provide information about the update to the legislation that is taking place in July of this year.

So, what is CASL?
It stands for Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation. It first took effect on June 1, 2014, and has since been in a transitional period to give marketers time to adjust to the new regulations. During the transitional period, implied consent (defined below) was assumed for any existing contacts in your database (unless they had previously opted out). On July 1, 2017, this transitional period will end – along with assumed implied consent. This means that all existing Canadian contacts in your database must have provided express consent (defined below) prior to July 1, 2017, or fit one of the allowed implied consent criteria (outlined below). 100 percent compliance will be required, and fines will be assessed for companies who do not follow the guidelines.

I don’t market to Canadian contacts – so, why should I follow CASL guidelines?
Following CASL guidelines should be considered a best practice. It not only shows that your company respects the users’ privacy and preferences, but it also safeguards you in case you do have any rogue Canadian contacts in your list. Even if you don’t market to Canadian contacts, you may still capture a few of them, especially if your company is in the Midwest. Also, Canada is not the only country with strict privacy laws. Europe and Asia also have privacy laws similar to Canada’s, and sometimes these can be even more strict.

Key points:

  • CASL prohibits the sending of any type of electronic communication without express or implied consent.
  • Consent must be documented (date and time of consent as well as what the contact opted into).
  • Examples of express consent:
    • Filling out a compliant form (see form requirements below).
    • Requesting to be added to a list via email.
    • Any other form of documented request to receive communication.
  • Examples of implied consent:
    • Conspicuous publication: The information is published in plain sight: For example, on a website or in a trade magazine.
    • Disclosure: The information is given to you: For example, people give you their business card or address. If people conspicuously publish their address or give it to you, then you have implied consent to send them messages related to their work. These are valuable forms of implied consent for business-to-business marketing since they allow cold calling, but only if the address was acquired legitimately and the message is relevant to the recipient.
    • Existing business relationship: The person has made a transaction, inquiry, application or written contract for the purchase or barter of products, goods or services.
    • Existing non-business relationship: The person is a member of your organization or has provided volunteer work, a donation or a gift.
  • Examples of exceptions to consent:
    • The electronic communication provides a quote or estimate that was requested by the contact.
    • The electronic communication facilitates a commercial transaction that the recipient previously agreed to enter.
    • The electronic communication provides warranty information, product recall information, or safety or security information about a product or service that the recipient uses, has used, or has purchased.
    • The electronic communication provides factual information about the use or ongoing purchase by the recipient of products or services offered under a subscription membership.
  • All forms must be CASL compliant for the submissions to be valid. All forms must:
    • Clearly indicate what you are asking recipients to opt into.
    • Indicate who the sender is (name that the emails will be coming from).
    • Include a mailing address and either a phone number, web address or email address (this can be located in the footer of your website or on the same page as the opt-in form).
    • Indicate how the recipient can unsubscribe.
  • Example verbiage (mailing address in footer of website): By signing up, you agree to receive emails from XYZ Company. Unsubscribe at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link at the bottom of our emails.
  • Electronic communications must also be CASL compliant in addition to being sent only to contacts who have opted in. All electronic communications must:
    • Include the name of the person or business under which the sender carries on business.
    • Include the mailing address and either a phone number, web address or email address.
    • Include a functioning unsubscribe mechanism.
      • One-click unsubscribe is preferred unless you have a preference center set up.
      • You cannot require a contact to log in or provide any information other than an email address to unsubscribe.
      • You must comply with unsubscribe requests within 10 days.

Changes as of July 1, 2017:

  • Transitional implied consent expires.
    • When CASL was first introduced, there was a 3-year transitional period when consent was implied unless otherwise stated (the contact unsubscribed or gave notification that they no longer wanted to receive communication).
    • Beginning on July 1, 2017, ALL contacts must have express or implied consent (see above for acceptable implied consent examples).

What’s next?
The following are some steps you can take to ensure that you’re CASL compliant before the transitional period ends:

  • Perform an audit of your existing database to find any contacts who don’t have express consent on file or don’t apply to implied consent criteria.
    • If contacts without express consent exist, you have until July 1 to receive express consent from them.
  • Perform an audit of your existing opt-in forms and email templates to ensure CASL compliance and update them accordingly.
  • After July 1, remove any non-compliant contacts from your database.
  • Ensure all new opt-in forms, email templates and other electronic communications are CASL compliant moving forward.


If you have any questions, or would like help auditing your current database and digital marketing practices, reach out to us! We’re experts in all things CASL and can help you figure out how it fits with your business.


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