What You Need to Know About Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

Published on July 11, 2017

Do you send commercial or promotional text messages to recipients in Canada? If so, you need to know about CASL.

What Is CASL?

CASL stands for Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation, which took effect on July 1, 2014. It was designed to protect Canadian citizens from spam and malware while also supporting a competitive, innovative economy.

To that end, CASL describes rules for anyone who wants to send Commercial Electronic Messages, or CEMs, to recipients in Canada.

"CASL was designed to protect Canadian citizens from spam and malware while also supporting a competitive, innovative economy."

What Exactly Are CEMs?

CEMs span everything from email and social media to SMS and instant messages. CASL defines a CEM as any communication that:

  • Is in electronic format
  • Is sent to an electronic address
  • Contains a commercial or promotional message

Before sending a CEM, you need to make sure you’ve got consent from your recipients.

How Do I Get Consent?

How you get consent depends on what type of consent it is. CASL defines two types:

  • Implied consent: You obtain consent when a person provides contact information through an existing business or non-business relationship, or discloses or publicly publishes their info
  • Express consent: You obtain consent when the person explicitly agrees, either orally or in writing, to receive your CEMs

Express consent is valid until the recipient withdraws it, but implied consent generally has an expiration date of two years, after which you can no longer legally send CEMs.

For more details about express and implied consent, read this handy guide from the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission.

Oh, and be sure to keep good records about the type of consent you obtained, as well as when, why, and the manner in which you obtained it. In the event of a dispute, the burden to prove consent falls on the sender, not the recipient.

Anything Else I Need to Do?

Yep, glad you asked!

In addition to obtaining consent, you also need to provide identification/contact information and an unsubscribe mechanism in all of your CEMs.

Say you’re getting ready to send out a brilliant text message promotion for deep-fried Oreos at Crazy Dan’s Crazy Diner. 😋

Assuming you’ve already got consent, here’s what a compliant CEM might look like:

Half off all-you-can-eat deep-fried Oreos today! Click bit.ly/1btznoY or text STOP to stop. Info: bit.ly/2tbFLBU

The example above contains two unsubscribe options because the CRTC recommends it in the case of SMS messages.

To save on space, you can simply link to a page containing the required identification and contact information.

Who Must Comply with CASL?

Anyone sending CEMs from Canada must comply with CASL.

Furthermore, anyone sending CEMs to recipients in Canada must comply with CASL.

It doesn’t matter if you’re located in Canada or not.

Why Should I Care?

Because of the liability.

There are monetary penalties for violating CASL. Fines for individuals go up to $1 million per violation, and fines for businesses go up to $10 million per violation.

Keep in mind that these fines represent the maximum penalties for the most severe violations. CASL violations are considered on a case-by-case basis, and multiple factors are taken into account to determine a reasonable fine.

Resources

Check out these resources for more information on CASL and how to be compliant:

Closing note

This article is meant to be a friendly resource, not legal advice—we’re text marketing pros, not lawyers, after all. 😉 We recommend contacting a qualified attorney to help ensure that you’re compliant with CASL.