A Devout Brief on the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)!!!

Category : Email Marketing

With the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation that came into enforcement, from July 1, 2014, the email marketing world battles to tweak their email marketing strategies. Amidst all that frenzy, Monks bring you a brief of what the CASL is all about. The following post may take into account only the ‘Commercial Emails’ perspective of CASL:

CASL – An Introduction

The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation abbreviated as CASL, is a law that establishes the rules for commercial electronic messages, address harvesting, installation of computer programs, etc. & gives recipients the right to take an action against them and outlines the penalties incurred for those who violate the law.

Who Does CASL Apply To?

The legislation is applicable to any marketer/individual who makes use of commercial electronic messages (CEM), even if their business is based in the U.S. or any other country outside of Canada.

A Commercial Electronic Message (CEM) Includes:

Under CASL, a CEM is a message that is the following:

  • That is an electronic message. Eg: Email, SMS, IM, some social media communications, etc.
  • That is sent on an electronic address. Eg: Email accounts, Instant Messaging accounts, social media accounts, etc.
  • That encourages participation in any commercial activity. Eg: offerings, advertising or promoting a product, a service or a person, etc.

Fax messages and fax numbers aren’t considered electronic formats or addresses under CASL.

Express & Implied Consent

The CASL dictates that only recipients from whom the sender’s have received an express consent to send marketing emails must be sent the same. Also, if your current lists are a result of or include implied consent, the Act has a provision of 3 years transition period during which, express consent from those recipients shall be obtained.

The below table denotes the difference between two such consents:

Implied Consent

Express Consent

Existing business relationship
(e.g: interest generated or inquiry made about your goods & services, acceptance of contract, etc.)
A valid consent given in writing or orally, to receive commercial electronic messages.
Existing non-business relationship
(e.g:  you are a club or association and the recipient is one of your members etc.)
Request for consent is to be set out clearly and unambiguously with the prescribed information under the CASL
The source of the recipients email address is conspicuous or unknown
(e.g.: purchased email lists, etc.)
Ideally a dedicated permission message or email should be sent in order to receive en express consent
It is generally time-limited, typically a period of 2 years after the event that starts the relationship (e.g. purchase of a good) Express consent is not time-limited, unless the recipient withdraws his or her consent.

According to CASL, an Express consent is valid only if the following information is included with your request email for consent:

  • A clear and concise description of your purpose for such a consent email request
  • A description of type of emails you will be sending
  • Requestor’s name and contact information (physical mailing address and telephone number, email address, or website URL)
  • A statement that the recipient may unsubscribe from these emails at any time.

Also, it is essential to keep records as to how you obtained implied or express consent, since under both cases you can be obligated to prove the consent.

How to manage consent for companies you work with/for?

Let us treat this with an example:

In the event where Company-A has obtained a valid express consent to send marketing emails,  the following is allowed:

Co. A can share the recipient’s email addresses with Co.  B and Co. X and more… Co. A, B and X can all send commercial emails to the recipients list obtained from Co. A
(Provided Co. B and Co. X identify in their emails that they received the express consent to send the email from Co. A) 
Co. A needs to notify parties of an unsubscribe request that relates to them and Companies B and X have an obligation to notify Company A of any unsubscribe request they receive(Of course the recipient must be able to withdraw their express consent from ANY of these companies by unsubscribing, from receiving ANY or ALL emails.)


Monks believe there is never a need to tamper with the laws and thus all your commercial emailing activities must be practiced in accordance with the prescriptions in the legislation – Organic and clean is the way to nailing it!! The following takeaways are practices that would keep you away from tampering with the law in an easy way:

  • Send emails only to people who want to receive them
  • While requesting consent do not use pre-filled check boxes
  • Include a very clear and functional ‘Unsubscribe’
  • Include your valid physical business address in the email (P.O Box Nos. permissible)
  • Do not buy or sell email lists
  • Do not use content that is lengthy and misleading in any way
  • Never send emails to subscriber’s who have once unsubscribed
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Kevin is the Head of Marketing at EmailMonks, one of the fastest-growing email design and coding companies. He loves gadgets, bikes, jazz, and breathes ‘email marketing’. He is a brand magician who loves to engage, share insights with fellow marketers, and enjoys sharing his thoughts on the latest email marketing best practices at EmailMonks Blog.

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