Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) - What does it mean for my business?

Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) is one of the hardest pieces of legislation to navigate—but it doesn’t have to be. Here’s a summary of what it means for you and how to comply.

What does CASL cover?

CASL covers mass communications like emails and texts (“commercial electronic messages,”) but not phone calls.

Who can I email?

You can email people who have given explicit or implied consent to receive emails.

Explicit consent is when someone has given you permission to email them through, for example, a sign-up form or at the point of sale. It is important to keep records of these opt-ins.

Implied consent is when you have a relationship with a customer, but no formal permission from them. It includes things like a recent purchase or a business relationship.

Implied consent expires 24 months after a purchase or six months after an inquiry. While that window is open, you can ask people who have given implied consent to opt-in, which makes their consent explicit.

What about referrals?

If an existing client gives you a potential client’s contact information, you are allowed to contact that lead once to introduce yourself. You need to specify who made the referral in your message.

Who can’t I email?

You can’t email someone who hasn’t given either kind of consent, or whose implied consent has expired without an opt-in.

If someone unsubscribes, you need to stop sending them emails within 10 days.

Are my emails compliant?

In addition to an unsubscribe option (see above), all emails need to contain your business’ contact information, such as mailing address, phone, and email information or website address, etc. A common way to include this information is to put it in the email footer.

What happens if I don’t comply?

The CRTC can and does issue fines for non-compliance. We were told by former Industry Minister James Moore that the law is meant to target spammers, identity thieves, and other scam artists, but CASL still applies to small businesses.

There were plans to allow individual customers to sue businesses who violate CASL, but the government has indefinitely delayed that rule after CFIB’s advocacy on the issue.

How do I comply?

In addition to making sure you have consent to email your subscribers, you need to include these four things in every message:

  • A clear subject line
  • The name of your company
  • Your company’s contact information
  • An unsubscribe button

Are there tools to help me comply?

The Government of Canada has compliance tools on their CASL site including an FAQ, a myth/fact check, and quick compliance basics.