Canada Clamps Down on Spam
The Canadian Parliament passed Canada’s Anti-Spam Law in 2010 and has been implementing the law in stages since 2014. The legislation, which covers any commercial electronic message delivered to consumers as a way to get them to buy products or services or advertise business opportunities, would, among other provisions, require businesses to get consent from consumers before sending such messages.
Companies must also clearly identify themselves, provide full contact information, and have clear, functional opt-out mechanisms in place.
Unlike other anti-spam legislation around the world that provides for an opt-out framework, meaning that consumers have to ask to be removed from the senders’ email lists, the CASL requires senders to have permission before anything can be sent. Customer consent could be expressed, as in a formal written or oral declaration of permission, or implied, through a prior business relationship, defined as when a customer contacts or purchases from the company or publicly shares an email address with the company within the previous two years.
“Email marketing programs are valuable ways for companies to communicate with consumers,” says Joan Brehl, vice president and general manager of the Alliance for Audited Media in Canada. “To abide by the law, businesses must understand that Canadian consumers own their email address and have complete control over what messages they receive.”
The final piece of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law, which would have allowed class-action lawyers to initiate lawsuits over alleged breaches, was supposed to go into effect July 1, but the Canadian government on June 2 pulled back on that part of the legislation. Companies that did not comply with the CASL could have faced serious penalties, including civil and criminal charges, personal liability, and fines up to $10 million.
The Canadian Radio, Television and Telecommunications Commission has oversight of the law, which applies equally to Canadian companies and foreign companies doing business in Canada. Any individual or business entity that sends or assists in sending an electronic message—whether via email, text, social media, voice, or imagery—to any consumer in Canada is subject to the CASL.