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Canada's Anti Spam Law (CASL) and what it means and CASL 2.0

technologyEdward KiledjianComment

Over the last month, I received several emails asking me about CASL (the Canadian Anti Spam Law) which went into effect July 1 2014. The purpose of CASL is to protect consumers from unsolicited email messages.

Nothing in this article should be construed as legal advice. Always check with a qualified legal professional.

What is CASL

There are well written white papers by lawyers that provide the legal perspective on CASL and how it impacts business'. If that applies to you, you should go find and read some of those. The Canadian Anti-Spam Law was designed to protect canadian email addresses (.ca) from receiving unsolicited commercial messages. The main drivers are:

  • Consent  : the sender needs to secure and record detailed explicit consent from the recipient that they want to receive your marketing content
  • Identification : The law required that you clearly identify who is sending the message and who it is being send on behalf of. The recipient must have a way to easily reach you.
  • Unsubscribe :  The recipient must have a simple and clear way to unsubscribe from your mailing list. 

Each message you send must contain Identification and unsubscribe.

Not only email

Legislators made sure CASL protect canadians from multiple mediums of commercial message delivery including emails, instant messaging, social media, etc. 

Assume this applies to all mechanisms you use to contact a customer for marketing purposes.

Does this CASL apply to me?

Let me keep this simple... CASL applies to any entity pushing a marketing message and you should plan on adhering to its standards. 

Does CASL apply to not for profit organizations?

As currently worded, the law provides an exemption for government certified charities performing fund raising through emails. Conversely other revenue generating activities are not exempt. 

The identification and unsubscribe requirements of the law apply to not for profits also.

If you want to add subscribers from one list to another, then you will need explicit consent. 

Non commercial messages (aka regular business type emails) are not covered by CASL. 

You can learn more on the government's website (link)

CASL and email address harvesting

A practice used by some email marketers or resellers of marketing lists is to harvest email addresses using electronic programs to collect email addresses from websites, mailing lists, forums, etc.

CASL amends PIPEDA to forbid the activity of email harvesting.

CASL 2.0

January 15 2015 an additional provision will go into effect called the Computer Program Rules. This new provision will require express consent before the installation of a computer program on someone's PC, smartphone or other electronic device. 

This new wave of CASL comes with very stiff penalties that can reach $10,000,000 for companies. This new wave goes beyond Canadian borders. It applies to organizations (can be located anywhere) installing programs on a computer located in Canada or to Canadians installing program on computers outside of Canada (or under the direction on someone in Canada). 

This section of CASL is fairly complicated so I will let you research the interwebs for additional information if you think it applies to you. 

CASL Best practices

In addition to following the CASL requirements stated above, many organizations are also verifying receiver interest in their messages every 6 months. 

Organizations that can prove that they have an existing business relationship will have 3 years to comply but industry best practice says you should plan to comply immediately.