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Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation

Monday, 27 February 2023

Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) was introduced in 2014 with the aim of reducing the amount of unsolicited electronic messages, or spam, that Canadians receive. The legislation affects anyone who sends commercial electronic messages, including email, text messages, and social media messages, and has significant implications for businesses and individuals alike.

One of the key provisions of CASL is that individuals and businesses must obtain consent from recipients before sending them commercial electronic messages. This means that organizations can only send marketing messages to individuals who have explicitly given them permission. Obtaining consent is possible in a variety of ways, such as through a sign-up form on a website or through an opt-in process in a mobile app.

Another important aspect of CASL is that all commercial electronic messages must contain certain identifying information, including the name and contact information of the sender, as well as an unsubscribe mechanism. The unsubscribe mechanism must be easy for recipients to use and remain functional for at least 60 days after the message is sent.


What is spam?

Spam has become a significant social and economic burden in Canada and around the world. The simplest definition of spam is unsolicited communications. Most consumers experience spam via email or text marketing. 

The legal definition of spam also encompasses:

  • unauthorized alteration of transmission data
  • the installation of computer programs without consent
  • false or misleading electronic representations (including websites)
  • the harvesting of addresses (collecting and/or using email or other electronic addresses without permission)
  • the collection of personal information by accessing a computer system or electronic device illegally

CASL primarily targets commercial electronic messages that encourage individuals to engage in a commercial activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit.

Penalties for Violating CASL

The penalties for violating CASL can be significant. Individuals can be fined up to $1 million per violation, while businesses can be fined up to $10 million. In addition to fines, CASL violations can also result in damage to a company's reputation, as well as a loss of customer trust.

Who is Affected By CASL

The implications of CASL are significant for businesses, particularly those that rely on email marketing as a key component of their marketing strategy. To comply with the legislation, companies must ensure that they have obtained the necessary consent from their email list subscribers and that all of their commercial electronic messages contain the required identifying information and unsubscribe mechanism.

CASL also has implications for individuals, as it gives them greater control over the messages they receive. By requiring organizations to obtain explicit consent before sending commercial electronic messages, CASL puts the power back in the hands of the consumer. Individuals can opt-in to receive messages from organizations that they are interested in hearing from, while also being able to easily unsubscribe from messages they no longer wish to receive.

One of the challenges of CASL is that it can be difficult for organizations to know whether they have obtained the necessary consent from individuals on their email list. To address this issue, the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has provided guidelines on obtaining consent, and checklists that organizations can use to ensure that they comply with the legislation.

How CASL Has Affected Businesses

Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) has increased discipline among companies in managing their electronic marketing programs. This is achieved through a requirement for businesses to obtain consent before sending commercial electronic messages. By requesting permission, businesses demonstrate to consumers that they value their privacy and respect their preferences. This also ensures that businesses communicate only with individuals who have expressed an interest in their product or service. As a result, Canadian companies benefit from high-quality email lists with strong open and click-through rates. CASL plays a critical role in fostering trust in the digital environment, thereby creating new economic opportunities for businesses.

In addition, CASL has facilitated Canada's participation in global enforcement efforts by promoting information sharing and cooperation. Through partnerships with organizations such as the Unsolicited Communications Enforcement Network (UCENet), which comprises members from over 26 countries, CASL partners work collaboratively to combat spam and unsolicited telecommunications and to promote international spam enforcement cooperation.

Overall, Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation has had a significant impact on the way that businesses and individuals communicate electronically. By requiring explicit consent for commercial electronic messages, CASL has given individuals greater control over the messages they receive, while also placing greater responsibility on organizations to ensure that they comply with the legislation. While there have been challenges in implementing and enforcing the legislation, CASL has ultimately been a positive development in the fight against spam and in the protection of individual privacy.

Our Billyard Insurance brokers will always start the conversation by learning more about your business. This allows us to gain an understanding of your operations, risk exposures, revenues, contractors, and clients. Contact us today to get the insurance advice your business needs.


By: Liz Stephenson