Everything You Need to Know About CASL

The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation is a new set of laws that applies to "Commercial Electronic Messages" (CEM) and how they are sent.

The new legislation applies to all Canadian residents, or anyone sending CEM to Canadian residents. The legislation applies to both individuals and businesses.

A CEM can be sent as an email, instant message, text message, social media message and any other electronic correspondence.

CASL kicks in on Tuesday, July 1st.

What Makes a Message Commercially Electronic?

If the intent of your electronic message is to encourage the recipient to participate in a commercial activity, then it's a CEM.

Examples of CEM content include:

  • Offers or promotions to purchase, sell, barter or lease products, goods, services, land or interests
  • Offers to provide an opportunity for business or investment
  • Promoting a person who does anything listed above

Why is it Happening?

It's for your protection. Spam can steal personal and private information, or turn a computer into a resource for large hacker networks to cause a lot of trouble. According to the Cisco 2008 Annual Security Report, Canada ranked fourth on the ‘Spam by Originating Country’ list - that's bad news.

What Happens If You Break the Law?

The Canadian Radio-television Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), one of the governing bodies of CASL, will enforce a fine. The maximum fine is $1 million per violation for an individual. For businesses, the maximum fine is $10 million per violation.

How to Comply with CASL

There are three things you need that you need to do to make sure you comply with the rules set out by this new anti-spam legislation.

1. Obtain consent

Before you send out any CEMs, you need to get the recipient's consent. There are two types of consent. express and implied.

Express consent is when a recipient actively subscribes to your electronic messages. Once express consent is obtained, you can send the recipient messages. You must also make it clear that the recipient can unsubscribe or contact you at any time.

Implied consent happens when a potential recipient provides contact information for a specific purpose. If for example, someone hands you a business card because they want to know more about a service you provide, then you can message them as long as the content is directly related to the reason why they provided their info.

How to Obtain Consent

You've probably received a few emails from companies requesting consent to continue sending you newsletters. Companies are sending out consent requests before the July 1st deadline asking recipients to opt-in. It is required by law that these emails make the recipient aware that they do have the option to opt-out later. The request must also include a physical mailing address and a phone number, email address or a link to a site that contains contact info.

Additionally,  the legislation requires that consent requests:

  • Cannot contain pre-toggled checkboxes implicating that the person would want to opt-in
  • Must not be bundled with requests for consent to the general terms and conditions of use or sale

2. Always provide identification information

After July 1st, anyone involved in sending a CEM, must be explicitly named. There are two parts to this rule.

  • The person who writes the content has to name themself
  • If a third-party, like an ad agency, assists in creating the message, then they must be named as well

3. Always have clear unsubscribe options

CASL states that all CEM must have clear unsubscribe options. The link has to be featured prominently and the unsubscribe process must be easy and "readily performed." It also has to be free of charge.

Social Media & CASL

Social media is not exempt from the anti-spam legislation. If a user likes your company Facebook page or follows you on Twitter, that does not qualify as express or implied content. You cannot direct message a fan or follower.

But, publishing content that promotes commercial activity to your own public channels as a post or tweet is still allowed under CASL.

B2B Communications

Under CASL, Business-to-business CEM can be sent to companies that you have on-going relationships with. The messages must be sent by an employee, representative, contractor or franchisee. It also has to be relevant to the recipient's business, role, function or duties.

Messages sent to third-party business partners, like advertising agencies, are exempt from CASL.

What You Don't Need Consent For

  • You can respond to a customer or correspondence sent within the past 6 months
  • Send messages to employees or individuals associated with your business(consultants for example)
  • Attempts to enforce legal rights or court orders
  • Sending a message that will be opened or accessed outside of Canada
  • Messaging on behalf of a charity or political organization to fundraise
  • Sending info about a warranty, recall, security or safety issue about something the recipient purchased from you
  • Providing info about ongoing use, membership, purchase, account or loan
  • Sending product updates or upgrades

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