About the Canada Anti-Spam Law

July 2, 2014

July 1, 2014:  The Canada Anti-Spam Law (CASL) went into affect. If you run any type of newsletter or email list, hopefully you have heard about already, if not, here is a primer on it.

To Whom Does CASL Apply?

CASL, first of all, is a Canadian law, which means that we are talking about Canadian citizens, computers, mobile phones and tablets. Mostly, it’s about email, but also includes text messages and some social media items (like direct messages). Also it’s only applicable to messages that are about commerce, marketing and promotion, but not personal communications.

Given that Canada is our friendly neighbor to the North, chances are,  you have a Canadian somewhere in your subscriber list. Unless you know for sure that you have no Canadian subscribers, assume that you do. It’s super hard to tell if an email address is Canadian and virtually impossible to via email domain alone, unless it ends in “.ca” of course.  But many Canadian companies have .com addresses.

Getting Consent

You need to get consent to email to people/devices covered by CASL. “Consent,” by definition in CASL, is as follows:

  • You need to state the reason you are asking for their information and provide a description of the content that they will be receiving.
  • Your full contact information needs to be on the page, as well as your promise that they can unsubscribe at any time.
  • A record of this consent needs to be recorded. Also, all forms on your website need to have a positive action to subscribe somebody. Meaning things like checkboxes can’t be pre-checked.

Here are the times that you don’t need to get consent or it’s considered implied consent:

  • Messages to an employee, consultant, or people associated with your business
  • Responses to a current customer, or someone who has inquired of in the last six months
  • Messages from a charity or political organization for soliciting contributions
  • Messages that provide warranty, recall, safety, or security information about a purchase by the recipient
  • Messages that provide information about a purchase, subscription, service or other ongoing relationship
  • A single message to a recipient without an existing relationship on the basis of a referral with the full name of the referring person in the message
  • A recipient has purchased a product, service contract, or membership with your organization in the past 24 months
  • You are a registered charity or political organization, and the recipient has made a donation or gift, has volunteered or attended a function
  • A professional message is sent to someone whose email address was given to you, or is conspicuously published, and who hasn’t published or told you that they don’t want unsolicited messages

More Requirements

In addition to getting and recording consent, there are few more requirements to be in full compliance. You need to put your name and contact information (such as mailing address, website and/or phone) in all of your communications. All messages sent must also include an unsubscribe mechanism/link.

This post is just a brief introduction, if you need more information, you can read the Canadian law directly or see their FAQ.


Alan has been creating websites since CompuServe was huge. Today he still is developing websites using technologies such as CSS3, HTML5, jQuery and CakePHP.

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