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The New Anti-Spam Law in Canada: A Primer for Email Marketers

by Ryan Harris  |  
July 25, 2014

If you're a marketer for a North American company, chances are high that you send commercial email to consumer or business recipients in Canada. You may be aware, then, that new commercial email regulations are being introduced as law in Canada.

Called the Canadian Anti-Spam Law, the legislation is designed to deter spammers from targeting Canadian consumers and to provide Canadian law enforcement officials with more effective methods for combating malicious senders.

At the core of the new legislation is what Canada defines as "commercial electronic message," or CEM. So what constitutes a CEM? According to the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, a CEM includes any electronic message that encourages participation in a commercial activity, including, but not limited to, offering, advertising, or promoting a product, a service, or a person. The law applies to all businesses or persons sending CEMs, regardless of whether there is expectation of profit.

Regulated messages include common message formats such as email, SMS (text) messages, and instant messages (IMs). Additional regulated message formats or delivery vehicles may include Web applications, websites, blogs, voice over IP, and URLs.

In this article, we'll examine how this new legislation affects commercial messages sent via the email channel.

New Email Sender Regulations

At the highest level, the law requires email senders to be in compliance with four new requirements:

  1. Consent: You must have express or implied consent to send a CEM.
  2. Identification: You must clearly identify yourself and the business or organization sending the CEM.
  3. Unsubscribe mechanism: You must include an unsubscribe mechanism on every CEM sent.
  4. Contact information: You must provide a way for the recipient to contact you: A physical address and electronic address are required in all your CEM communications

The Complexity of Consent

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Ryan Harris is manager of compliance for email delivery and transactional email service SendGrid, where he is responsible for overseeing the compliance department and ensuring that senders are upholding white-hat email practices.

LinkedIn: Ryan Harris

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  • by Sarah Fri Jul 25, 2014 via web

    Really happy to see an article about CASL on Marketing Profs. I wrote a similar piece for our company blog (our readership is comprised largely of small to medium sized business owners), and was challenged to keep it as concise and easy to understand as possible. You covered everything with great clarity - I'm impressed!

    -Sarah Bauer
    Navigator Multimedia

  • by Gary Fri Jul 25, 2014 via web

    Still some confusion that maybe you can clear up: What effect does CASL have on US-based PR agencies that as a matter of course, already send press releases, story ideas, and other mass/targeted communications to Canadian press, bloggers and broadcasters? Is there anything specific here that compels that these Canadian recipients be treated any differently than their US counterparts? Do we automatically have "implied consent" with everyone found in a media directory as well as new media outlets not yet found in directories?

  • by Dave H Fri Jul 25, 2014 via web

    Ryan, this was a really good article. My question is what legislation (or liability) is in place for US-based companies to comply with this program? Then again how can a US-based organization comply with every countries legislation dealing with e-commerce and email marketing?

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