FAQs about Canada’s Tough New Anti-Spam Law (CASL)

June 09, 2014


On July 1, 2014, Canada is implementing its new anti-spam legislation (CASL). There is a lot of confusion out there about exactly how the laws will be implemented. This post will attempt to clarify what the law means to marketers, but for any specific or in-depth questions, please refer to the official CASL site.

The new laws are very strict, but this does provide marketers an opportunity to cultivate a very active and valuable email database. CASL requires that email recipients “opt in” to receive marketing messaging. Once your recipients are all opt-in, they will be much more engaged than your pre-CASL email list.

To get the most out of your new, CASL-compliant email list, make sure that you send targeted and/or personalized email messages instead of simply “batching and blasting.” The email contacts who have opted-in are more valuable than general contacts on previous lists, so it’s important to prevent them from unsubscribing whenever possible. AgilOne clients have seen email unsubscribe rates drop by 40% from just basic customer segmentation, and click through rates jump by 66% when using product segmentation.

What Do Marketers Need to Know?

CASL is one of the toughest anti-spam laws in the world with a first-time offender penalty of $10,000,000. That’s a big chunk of change for any company, so we’ll go through the details of the law to make sure your marketing programs don’t run afoul of the new rules.

The key item to focus on for marketers is the commercial electronic message piece of the law. This requires:

  • The message recipient has consented to receiving it (express consent, not implied);
  • The message includes identification of the person who sent the message;
  • The message includes information enabling the person who received it to readily contact the sender;
  • The message provides an “unsubscribe” option;
  • Previous subscribers cannot be “grandfathered in” to an email list. Each recipient needs to re-grant permission to the sender; and
  • Companies must keep records of who has opted into their communications.

The most difficult of the items above is getting consent from recipients prior to sending the messages. CASL requires that a person actively OPT IN. For example, if an online check box exists asking if a person would like to receive future marketing messages, that checkbox must be initially empty and actively checked by the future recipient. Essentially, this makes the popular prefilled checkbox illegal.

Does this Apply to Me?

If you email Canadians, the answer is probably “Yes.” CASL applies to both businesses and individuals. Charities have an exemption for fundraising activities. Similarly, politicians and political parties have an exemption if the primary reason for the messaging is to solicit campaign contributions.

The law also applies to foreign companies who are sending electronic messages to residents of Canada, though it is unclear how harshly the law will be enforced for foreign offenders. Companies will have 3 years to comply and then will be subject to a $10,000,000 fine.

Which Marketing Channels are Covered?

CASL covers “any electronic message that encourages participation in a commercial activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit.”

This means that the following channels are regulated by CASL:

  • Email,
  • Social messaging (such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn messaging)
  • SMS
  • Online advertisements (such as banner ads)

What Should Marketers do Before July 1, 2014?

Take steps to preserve your email database before the law goes into effect on July 1st. First, sort through your email list to determine which of your contacts are accurate and potentially valuable. (If you keep an updated email database, you can probably skip this step.) Next, create an opt-in mechanism if you don’t yet have one. Finally, email the people you would like to keep in your database and ask them to opt in so that you can continue emailing them in the future.

If you’d like to learn more about how to optimize your new CASL-compliant email list going forward, contact Summera Shaikh at summera.shaikh@agilone.com or call us at 647-892-3450.