Q&A about Canada’s Anti-spam legislation | BDC.ca

Canada’s anti-spam legislation: Your questions answered

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Canada’s anti-spam law (CASL) is intended to reduce the amount of undesirable commercial emails Canadians receive. While CASL covers different topics, the following only addresses the commercial electronic message portion of it.

Failure to comply with CASL can lead to tough penalties. Under the legislation, the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission can fine individuals up to $1 million, and corporations up to $10 million, for violating its provisions.

Here are answers to frequently asked questions to guide you through the most common day-to-day situations and help you build or adjust your email marketing plan.

What is CASL?

It’s a law, which among other things, prevents commercial electronic message from being sent without first obtaining consent from the recipient.

What is a commercial electronic message (CEM)?

A CEM is any electronic message (email, text, etc.) that encourages participation in a commercial activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit. Examples of CEMs are promoting your products or services or inviting a prospective customer to one of your events.

Is a phone conversation or a fax considered a CEM?

No.

Is a text message sent by a cell phone considered a CEM?

Yes, if it encourages participation in a commercial activity.

What does CASL prevent you from doing in relation to a CEM?

  • Sending unsolicited CEMs.
  • Sending CEMs without an unsubscribe mechanism and your contact information.
  • Making false and misleading representations in CEMs.
  • Collecting email addresses using third parties without consent.

Are there different types of consent?

Yes. There are two types: Express and implied.

An express consent results from the recipient taking an action to consent to receiving a CEM. Express consents are permanent until the recipient decides to unsubscribe.

An implied consent could results from an existing business relationships or a family relationship, such as:

  • Existing customers or suppliers
  • Prospective customers who have signed up to receive your communications (e.g. an electronic newsletter)
  • Family and friends

While implied consent permits you to send CEMs, this status is only temporary. After July 1, 2017, the implied consent for former customers will only be valid if you have had a relationship with them in the last two years. So you should try to collect express consents from all recipients of your CEMs.

Can I send a CEM to a person that has published their email address online?

Yes. As long as there is no specific mention that the person does not wish to receive CEMs. The CEM also has to be relevant to the person’s business role, functions or duties, and include an unsubscribe mechanism and your contact information.

Can I send a CEM to obtain consent?

No. CASL specifically prohibits sending e-mail to request consent.

Can I send a CEM to an employee of an existing customer?

Yes, if the message concerns the business activities the customer carries out with your company.

Is consent (implied or express) valid only for the person who has consented or valid for the entire organization the person is part of?

The consent is only valid for the person who has granted the consent personally.

Can I send a CEM to a person requesting information about my products and/or services?

Yes, in this case consent is implied provided that your CEM is about the requested products and/or services. In your message, you must include an unsubscribe mechanism and your contact information.

Can I send a CEM to a person who gives me their business card with an e-mail address on it?

Yes. As long as there is no specific mention that the person does not wish to receive CEMs. The CEM also has to be relevant to the person’s business role, functions or duties, and include an unsubscribe mechanism and your contact information.

Can I send a CEM that does not concern the activities of my company (like selling my car)?

No, unless you have consent from the person to whom the message is sent.

For more information on CASL, please visit fightspam.gc.ca. For tips on online marketing, download BDC’s free eBook Boost Your Sales with Online Marketing: A Guide for Entrepreneurs.

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