What You Need to Know about CASL in 2017: Canada’s Anti-Spam Law

Full disclosure: I am not a lawyer. I am simply an (excellent) email marketer with expert knowledge on CASL. This blog post should not be taken as legal advice. When in doubt, consult with a lawyer or check the full text of CASL. You can also directly read the private right of action section of CASL that will be coming into effect in 2017.

Do you conduct business in Canada or send emails to Canadian residents? Then you need to know about updates to Canada’s Anti-Spam Law in 2017.

CASL came into effect in July 2014, with the goal of curtailing unsolicited email and information collection. Further measures were passed in January 2015 to stop unsolicited program installations or updates.

Starting on July 1, 2017, the private right of action comes into effect. This means private individuals and organizations that are affected by a violation of the Law will be able to seek legal redress through civil actions.

Previously, only approved government agencies such as the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) could investigate and litigate against entities that flaunt the Law. Now, any individual can also sue an entity they believe is sending spam messages. Individuals and companies are totally responsible and liable for the messages they send.

Test your understanding with CASL’s Fight Spam quiz.

There are no automatic penalties. Fines from the CRTC can go as high as $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses per violation, depending on the nature of the violation and the violator’s history.

How does it affect email marketing?

As it relates to email marketing, the Law generally prohibits:

  • Sending of commercial electronic messages without the recipient’s consent, including messages to email addresses and social networking accounts, and text messages sent to a cell phone
  • Alteration of transmission data in an electronic message which results in the message being delivered to a different destination without expressed consent
  • Use of false or misleading representations online in the promotion of products or services
  • Collection of electronic addresses by the use of computer programs or the use of such addresses, without permission (address harvesting)
  • Installation of computer programs without the expressed consent of the owner of the computer system or its agent, such as an authorized employee
  • collection of personal information through accessing a computer system in violation of federal law (e.g. the Criminal Code of Canada)

Who can I send emails to?

The Law requires you to have explicit consent before sending an email. Recipients must opt-in to receive communications.

There are a few instances where “implied consent” is acceptable:

  • You have a current relationship with the recipient
  • A current relationship exists if you’ve sold the recipient a product/service sometime in the last two years or if the recipient has made an inquiry in the past 6 months
  • The recipient publicly publishes their email with no caveats to contacting them
  • If I wrote “Feel free to email me at kelly@maropost.com,” you have implied consent. However, if I added “No spam please!” then you would not have implied consent

What do I have to include in my email?

There are three things you must include in all your messages:

  • Your identity: You must identify yourself as the sender as well as provide the identity of anyone who you might be emailing on behalf of
  • Your contact information: You must give recipients the information they need to contact you, including name, physical mailing address, and phone number/email address
  • The option to unsubscribe: You must easily allow recipients to unsubscribe. Any unsubscribe links must be valid for 60 days. Any unsubscribe requests must be honored within 10 days

Now that you know how to avoid a fine, here are some tips to improve your open rate with leads: