So It's Settled Then – Canadian Anti-Spam Law Finalized

Greg Robinson

On November 28th, while many Americans were busy stuffing themselves with a Thanksgiving feast, the Canadian government approved Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) in its final form. I’ve spoken about this legislation with clients on many occasions, but until now we didn’t know exactly when CASL would go into effect.

I am FINALLY able to say that you will have until July 1, 2014 to make sure your organization is in compliance. I urge you to set aside sufficient time now to review the law with your legal, marketing and compliance teams. That’s just over 6 months from now!!

Several CASL requirements are similar to those of other anti-spam laws, such as the CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 in the US, including the need for accurate header info, disclosure of the sending entity’s address and a conspicuous unsubscribe link.

Likely the most significant requirement set forth by CASL is that which says you must obtain express consent from the subscribers on your list. This also means no more pre-checked opt-ins on subscription forms. A few exemptions exist, including some business to business communications, but a tremendous amount of messaging will be governed by CASL.

While you should be performing permission-based marketing already (ahem – see our rules of use), I implore you to revisit your processes and look for any avenue through which subscribers may be added to your list without having provided direct consent. Those channels should be corrected or cut off altogether. Privacy policies should be updated, too.

Additionally, you cannot “grandfather-in” your existing lists. It will be necessary to re-permission your current subscribers prior to the July 1, 2014 effective date. Communications sent requesting permission will also be governed by CASL, so you must get permission prior to July 1.

The law extends beyond email, covering all CEMs (Commercial Electronic Messages) such Email (obviously), Instant Messaging, Text/SMS and possibly voice communications. Consider all the ways you might push commercial content to your subscribers when you are reviewing the legislation.

CASL applies to entities sending CEMs both FROM and TO Canada, so those of you outside of Canada, who have perhaps not taken this seriously until now, should be in compliance as well. The CRTC, who is tasked with CASL’s enforcement, will likely be working in cooperation with the US Federal Trade Commission and other regulators when going after violators sending from outside of Canada.

Those who violate CASL face hefty fines of up to $10M, along with the opportunity for private action by those on the receiving end of the offending messages (coming into force in 2017).

While there has been and will continue to be a lot of noise surrounding CASL, those following best practices for communications shouldn’t have too much to worry about. The potential for significant fines is reason enough to do your due diligence and review the new law with the appropriate staff at your organization NOW, so you are ready before July.

Watch this space for more information on CASL and for tips on how your organization can ready itself.

*I am simply bringing awareness and cannot provide legal advice*

About the Author
Greg Robinson

As the Deliverability Manager at Informz, Greg Robinson oversees all client deliverability inquiries, maintains relationships with ISPs and anti-spam entities, and enforces anti-spam policy. Greg educates clients on best practices and strategy, working to correct existing and avoid future delivery issues to maximize deliverability rates.