Executive Brief on Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)

On July 1, 2014 things are going to change (read: change big) for any persons or organizations sending electronic communications to anyone in Canada. The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation, of CASL, will become the toughest anti-spam legislation in the world.

It could not be the toughest without having the teeth to bite those who ignore it. CASL requires opt-in-only electronic communications and grants the right to sue people and organizations that violate its strict requirements.

According to the Government of Canada website (www.ic.gc.ca), when the new law is in force, it will generally prohibit the:

  • sending of commercial electronic messages without the recipient’s consent (permission), including messages to email addresses and social networking accounts, and text messages sent to a cell phone;
  • alteration of transmission data in an electronic message which results in the message being delivered to a different destination without express consent;
  • installation of computer programs without the express consent of the owner of the computer system or its agent, such as an authorized employee;
  • use of false or misleading representations online in the promotion of products or services;
  • collection of personal information through accessing a computer system in violation of federal law (e.g. the Criminal Code of Canada) ; and
  • collection of electronic addresses by the use of computer programs or the use of such addresses, without permission (address harvesting).

What do you need to do now?

  1. Make Canadian electronic communications “Opt-In” only. Permission must be granted before communications can be sent. Implied consent is not the same as permission. The goal of CASL is that people only receive emails they agreed to receive.
  2. Send “Implied Consent” email only to people that you have done business with in the last 2 years.
  3. Investigate the type of communications you send now. This law applies to any email, text, social network message, etc., that is accessed on computers in Canada.
  4. Stop using pre-checked Opt-In boxes—they are not allowed. This includes auto-opt-ins on abandoned shopping carts.
  5. Make sure you have a policy, and that it is understood by everyone. Effective July 1, 2017, individuals can file lawsuits against violators. This is called Private right of action.

Questions and Answers

Q) Who does CASL apply to?
A) In short, CASL applies to everyone, including companies, non-profits, and yes, even individuals, that send electronic messages for commercial purposes.

Q) What types of electronic communications are being regulated?
A) CASL regulates commercial electronic messages (CEM) sent via email, text messages, and social network communications that are sent without consent.

Q) How does CASL define a commercial electronic (CEM) message?
A) Any message that seeks participation in a commercial activity, including events, white paper downloads, business opportunities, advertisements, etc.

Q) What is meant by consent?
A) Consent can be either express, where a person actively gives permission for the sending of the communication, or implied, where it is reasonable to conclude that permission has been given because of an existing relationship.

Q) What are the requirements for Express Consent?

  • A) Asking for permission after clearly stating your purpose for the communication
  • A) The sender must state his/her name, mailing address, and a phone number or email address, and identify the organization they work for
  • A) They must also tell the recipient that they can unsubscribe, and define the method for doing so

Where to go for more information:

Government of Canada website (Canada.gc.ca)

Canadian Chamber of Commerce (http://www.chamber.ca/resources/casl/)

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