Confused By CASL?

Canadian anti-spam legislationWhat You Need to Know to Comply with Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation

By now, you’ve most likely heard about the new CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation) law that took effect July 1, 2014, and have no doubt received countless emails from organizations asking for your permission to continue sending you their email messages. If you’re looking into setting up your own email subscriber list, you may be a little scared to jump in without fully understanding the ins and outs of the various anti-spam legislation.

Don’t worry, you are not alone. Ensuring your “CASL compliance” while also complying with the United States’ CAN-SPAM law of 2003, is at essence about being honest and respectful of your contacts. The key step is doing your due diligence by obtaining consent (express or implied) from your clients before you send them any commercial messages. Following are some tips to clear up any CASL confusion.

Applying Anti-Spam Legislation to Your Business

The new CASL law applies to any form of COMMERCIAL ELECTRONIC messaging, including email, voice and text messages, where the primary purpose is advertisement, promotion of a product or service, or any other form of communication sent to a mass email list. The law does not apply to your print marketing initiatives, such as direct mail or print newsletters.

It is important to note that CASL applies both to messages that are sent FROM Canada or sent TO a recipient in Canada so even U.S. and global businesses will need to comply with CASL if they send TO any recipients in Canada.

As a sender, you are responsible for complying with the spam laws in each of the countries where you send commercial messages. On the upside, because CASL is one of the strictest anti-spam laws in the world, being compliant with Canadian anti-spam legislation will help you meet the requirements of most other countries. If you are only sending emails within North America, CASL also exceeds the requirements of the United States’ CAN-SPAM law. However, if in doubt, always err on the side of caution and double check the email laws for the specific countries where you have subscribers.

Canada Anti-Spam Law DO’S

When building your email marketing lists, DO:

  • Obtain permission prior to sending any communication
    • Subscribers grant you “express” consent when they sign up for your email marketing list from your website or check a box to “opt-in” on a web form.
    • While not required, it is a best practice for building a quality email list to have subscribers confirm their subscription via a confirmation link in your welcome email. This is known as a “double opt-in.”
  • Keep proof of each subscriber’s opt-in source and the time they confirmed subscription, including:
    • How consent was obtained: electronically, in writing, or verbally.
    • The date and time they opted in to your email list.
    • What type of information or content they agreed to receive (i.e. e-newsletters, sales info, product promotions, etc.) Saving a screenshot of the email list sign-up form on your website will show what subscribers agreed to when they originally provided their email address.
  • Include an opt-out / unsubscribe method which is free and only one-step
    • Honor all unsubscribe requests within 10 days.
  • Clearly identify who is sending the message
    • Include a valid physical postal address. Legally registered PO boxes are acceptable.
    • Also include a URL, email address, or phone number, where you, the sender, can be contacted, making sure that contact info is valid for at least 60 days after the message is sent.
  • Use a truthful subject line, accurately describing the contents of the email
    • Specifically indicate if the message is an advertisement or solicitation.

Canada Anti-Spam Law DON’Ts

Just as important as your do’s are your don’ts. To make sure your email marketing complies with CASL, be sure you DO NOT:

  • Use a subject line that misleads your reader about the true content of your message
  • Fake your email’s ‘from,’ ‘to,’ originating domain name, or other routing information
  • Have a pre-checked box on a subscription form that automatically adds the reader to your email list
    • Your subscriber must deliberately check the opt-in box themselves for specific email purposes to grant consent.
  • Confirm an opt-out request by sending an email or other type of follow-up

So How Do You Set Up a Compliant Email Marketing System?

The great news here is that there are excellent email marketing services – like Aweber, MailChimp, and Captivating Email – that will help you easily manage your opt-in process, email list, and all unsubscribe requests. Once you’ve completed the initial set-up process (contact me if you’d like help with that), all you have to do is write your email message and click send — the software will take care of the rest.

Conquer Those Fears!

Don’t freeze in fear of sending any emails ever again to clients or prospects. In fact, all transactional emails you send are exempt from Canada’s anti-spam legislation. This includes any quotes, estimates, business inquiries, messages to confirm / facilitate transactions, and factual information about loans, purchases, subscriptions, memberships and accounts. Just be sure that with these types of emails, you include accurate sender information, with your proper email address, URL, or phone number, and an opt-out method.

If you are sending an email that is both transactional and commercial, make sure that the email is at least 80% transactional in content, and the offer (the commercial part of the email) is below the actual transactional information.

Have More Questions? Looking for a Little Guidance?

If you are ready to launch your own email list but aren’t sure how, I can help you select the best email marketing software for you, add a subscribe form to your website, and set up the full email subscription process.

If you already have an email subscriber list, but want to make sure you are complying with CASL, contact me for a quick evaluation. An important step is to review how you built your email list. For example, if you have gathered names from a tradeshow, compiled a client list, or manually imported addresses into your email list without the users’ consent, we will have to evaluate the actual type of consent you have and how we can acquire legal consent from all the people on your email list.

If you find yourself running into a CASL compliance issue, always seek proper legal advice and counsel. This post is for informational purposes only and is not legal advice. For legal guidance on your specific organization’s compliance with Canada’s anti-spam legislation, please contact a lawyer.

And finally if you’re a small business owner building your email marketing list, following these guidelines (and the links in this post) will help you stay compliant as you acquire new email subscribers and avoid potential future headaches.

Comment below to add your own experiences or tips on CASL or, feel free to contact me to chat about how CASL affects you.



  1. There’s definately a lot to find out about this topic.
    I like all the points you made.

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