The new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), which went into effect on July 1, 2014, has widely been viewed as the strictest anti-spam law in the world. Learn how it can affect your business.

Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation

Just a friendly disclaimer: I'm not a lawyer, I'm just a nerd ;) So before following any advice in this article, you should consult with a lawyer to determine if you are properly complying with this new legislation.

The law in its entirety can be read here:

And here's a helpful FAQ:

CASL Overview

  • Consent to receive an email can be express or implied.
    • Implied consent can be established in many ways (example: filling out a contact form on a website, or making an online purchase), and it can last between 6-24 months.
    • Express consent is where a subscriber explicitly opts-in to your mailing list, and it lasts until it is revoked.
  • The sender must prove consent, not the receiver. One easy way to do this is to keep records of IP addresses, and use double-opt-in (or confirmed-opt-in).
  • There are exceptions to the legislation, one major one being the belief that the email won't be accessed from Canada.
  • Fines for violators may be up to $1M for individuals and $10M for corporations.
  • The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the Competition Bureau, and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner are the agencies that will be responsible for enforcing the CASL.

My Thoughts

I believe the intent of CASL is positive: to reduce the quantity of spam by encouraging proper consent before sending an email. However, I think the law is written too vaguely, so there's a risk that it can be be interpreted differently by different people. As far as how strict the Canadian government will be when enforcing this law, we'll have to wait and see. Would a single violation by an average individual result in a fine of hundreds of dollars, as opposed to the $1M maximum? Time will tell.

Don't panic about the July 1, 2014 date of effect though, because there's a 3 year transition period in which you can still email existing subscribers that have implied consent, but you can't email new subscribers without consent.

What You Should Do

  1. Make sure you document consent for subscribers on your list: typically this involves using a double-opt-in process, and saving their IP address and a timestamp of when they opted-in.
  2. If you don't have documented consent for your list, you should re-confirm all subscribers, by sending them an email to have them re-opt-in to your list. This may sound like a pain in the ass, and you will lose a significant % of your list, but at least you will be able to sleep at night without worrying that the Canadian government might get ya ;)


Kane Miller from Winning.Email

Kane has a background in computer engineering, but now focuses on creating new and interesting web services. His passion for improving his own email deliverability rates was the driving force behind the creation of Winning.Email.