Canada Anti-Spam Law

Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) took effect in 2014 and any company that uses electronic channels to promote or market their organization, products or services in Canada can and will be affected.

Don’t be fooled by the name. You don’t need to be a “spammer” to be subjected to hefty fines that the law allows to be imposed on a company in violation. The company does not even need to be in Canada.

The CASL was designed to protect Canadian consumers by generally prohibiting the following practices:

  • Sending of commercial electronic messages (CEMs) without the recipient’s consent – read “permission” – including messages to email addresses and social networking accounts, and text messages sent to a cell phone
  • Installation of computer programs without the express consent of the owner of the computer system or its agent, such as an authorized employee
  • Use of false or misleading representations online in the promotion of products or services
  • Collection of personal information through accessing a computer system in violation of federal law
  • Collection of electronic addresses by the use of computer programs or the use of such addresses, without permission (known as address harvesting).

A CEM is broadly defined to include any message that has as its purpose, or one of its purposes, to encourage commercial activity.  It has been suggested that the mere presence of a link to a company website can make an email a CEM subject to CASL.

It is important for U.S. companies to familiarize themselves with the law and make sure that any messages they send to Canadian customers, prospective customers or the general public comply with CASL.

If you send CEMs to Canadians, you need to comply. Compliance may require:

  • Updating your communication and marketing practices
  • Making sure email campaigns’ “Subject” line is straightforward, not misleading.  Best practice is to be truthful and consistent in both the subject line and contents of the message
  • Implementing potentially costly changes to your IT capabilities.

The Canadian Anti-Spam Law is very complicated and can be very costly – if your organization is found to have sent non-compliant electronic messages, it can mean up to $1 million fine for individuals and $10 million for corporations.

That is why we recommend to our members that they learn more about the CASL through the links and resources that follow. Contact your company’s attorney or legal representation for additional guidance.

Links & Resources

Buffalo Niagara Partnership Blogs

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Canadian Chamber of Commerce

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CRTC  – The Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission

CRTC is the enforcement regulator under Canada’s Anti-spam Legislation (CASL), has released a video and materials with information on enforcement, regulations and guidance related to CASL. The video is available here.

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