By this point if you haven’t heard about the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) you are probably in trouble. Last July this new law governing email marketing practices came into effect with the goal of reducing the amount of spam email people receive. The law has been reviewed by prominent Canadian lawyers like Barry Sookman as one of the broadest and most restrictive email marketing regulations in the world. It includes possible fines up to $10 million for companies and $1 million for individuals for email misuse.

The effect on Canadian businesses is pronounced. The Canadian Federation for Independent Business (CFIB) gave the new law its Paper Weight Crown for increasing the hard costs and time that businesses spend on regulatory burdens. The CFIB projects the implementation of technologies to be in compliance with the law can cost businesses $30,000 to $50,000.

“We received over 500 calls in two weeks,” said Louis-Martin Parent, Director of the President’s Office at CFIB of when the law came into effect. “We will keep lobbying on CASL and with the new government I’m optimistic that it will be receptive to some possible changes to the law.”

To help you understand what CASL requires and how it could cost so much money we’ve answered some of the big questions around CASL in plain language

Can my business email my existing customers?

Yes! You can message people for two years after they are no longer a customer unless they opt-out (unsubscribe). In that case don’t email them!

Can we email potential customers?

You can, but only if they have you have their consent in one of the following ways:

1. The prospect has requested information about your services, products, pricing or other inquiry that begins a business relationship. This falls under ‘implied consent’ and the prospect can receive marketing emails for six months following the initial inquiry, unless they opt-out during that time period.

2. The prospect has explicitly opted-in by checking a box on a website form not related to pricing or services that clearly states “Yes! I want to receive future marketing emails” or similar explicit language.

3. The contact explicitly opted-in prior to July 1, 2014 via the means explained in point 2 above and proof for this exists.

4. The contact’s email is publicly disclosed (i.e. found on the Internet or a business card)

What if a partner provides us a list of contacts through a joint venture like an event sponsorship?

In order to use a third-party list, that company must clearly state on their website and/or marketing materials that the contact information provided on any forms will be shared with its partners and affiliates. If that form is the beginning of a business relationship with the third party, then it doesn’t not need an explicit opt-in. However, your company must be listed by name either on the form or another publicly available avenue as a partner or affiliate.

Without this disclosure, any contacts provided by third party are off limits.

When can’t we email potential customers?

If your prospect does not fulfill one of the conditions above, you can’t email them.

Also, all marketing emails are required to have an ‘unsubscribe’ or ‘opt-out’ option clearly available on them. This should connect to your CRM tool with prominent visibility that this contact cannot receive emails. When questioning whether a contact is safe to email, err on the side of caution and call.


We want to hear from you. How has CASL affected your business? Email us.

About James Rubec

James Rubec is a data geek, a former public relations lead and journalist with a love of content and advocacy. Ask him anything @JamesRRubec and be sure to follow @Cision_Canada

Read previous post:
Why Endorsements Work and How To Use Them

The best way to persuade someone to do or buy something is to have someone else to do it for...