It’s important for marketers to comply with laws and regulations for sending emails across different jurisdictions. One such law is Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), which is strictly enforced and comes with steep penalties for violators. Let’s take a closer look at this law, to learn what it demands, and how you can comply with it.
What Is the Canadian Anti-Spam Act?
This is a law enacted to protect Canadians from spam and other types of malicious or unsolicited messages. It requires businesses to get explicit permission before sending a marketing email or SMS message to any Canadian, clearly identify themselves in such messages, and make it easy to unsubscribe from them.
In legal speak, the law governs the sending of Commercial Electronic Messages (CEMs), which refers to any message sent to entice the recipient into a commercial transaction. It applies to both emails and SMS but not telecommunication, which is regulated under a different act.
This act is enforced by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and the Competition Bureau.
Who Is Covered by CASL?
CASL covers every CEM sent to a Canadian resident. If you send a commercial message to a Canadian, the law still applies even if your company isn’t based in Canada. It doesn’t apply to non-commercial activities, broadcast messaging, and voice calls, which are governed by other laws.
What Is CEM, and What Are the Terms of Delivery?
A CEM, as defined by the Canadian Anti-spam Act, is an electronic message sent to “encourage participation in a commercial activity.” In broader terms, it’s a message that advertises or promotes commercial activity.
Under CASL, you can only send a CEM if you fulfill certain terms, including:
1. You have explicit consent from the message’s recipient.
2. You must clearly state the identity of the sender, whether it’s you or the organization on whose behalf you’re sending it. The message must include contact information (street address, phone number, and email address) valid for at least 60 days after it’s sent.
3. You must include a way for the recipient to unsubscribe. The unsubscribe mechanism must be clearly marked, usually with a link.
4. You must not include false and misleading information.
Basic Consent Requirements
Under CASL, there are two types of recognized consent: express and implied.
This type of consent can be oral or written. Here, the recipient gives you explicit consent to send commercial electronic messages to their contact. It must include the following:
- Your identity and contact information.
- Your reason for requesting the consent, including a clear indication of what type of CEMs you are intending to send.
- A reminder that the recipient can withdraw their consent at any time and instructions on how to do that.
This type of consent is more tricky. It applies if there’s an already existing relationship between the sender and the recipient, e.g., a customer who purchased an item from your online store. It’s time-limited, being valid just for 2 years after the commercial relationship begins.
Messages for Which Consent Is Not Required
Certain types of CEMs are exempt from CASL’s requirement to obtain consent. They include CEMs that:
- Are quotes or estimates;
- Provide information about ongoing purchases, subscriptions, memberships, employer relationships, etc.;
- Deliver a product or service, e.g., software updates and downloads;
- Facilitate and confirm transactions initiated by the recipient.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
CASL imposes monetary penalties on violators. Individual violators can receive fines of up to $1 million, while businesses can pay up to $10 million. Besides, sending unsolicited commercial messages can also ruin your reputation with existing and potential customers.
It’s necessary for marketers to comply with laws, not just to avoid consequences but also to build good relationships with customers. CASL is one of the most important marketing regulations to know about, and we’ve explained it to you.
It’s also important for marketers to avoid email service providers (ESPs) known for sending spam messages because it can get them blacklisted. Choosing a reputable ESP with a good track record, like UniOne, will help you avoid potential email marketing issues.