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How Canada's Anti-Spam Law Will Affect Email Marketers [Infographic]

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Canada's anti-spam legislation (CASL), which is set to start going into effect on July 1, will likely have a significant impact not only on email marketers based in Canada but also on marketers in other countries, according to a recent report from CakeMail.

As the company's overview of the new law notes, "If you own or operate a business in Canada, or if you have emails on your list ending in '.ca'—chances are pretty good that CASL applies to you."

According to CakeMail, the regulations will likely affect any organization that uses email to promote its business in Canada. Moreover, it puts the burden of determining whether recipients are accessing messages in the country on the marketer.

Below, key details about the legislation from CakeMail's overview.


Requirements and Timing

  • The date of enforcement for CASL is July 1, 2014, but there will will be a three-year transitional period in which marketers will be permitted to continue sending "CEMs" (electronic messages that encourage participation in commercial activity) to existing customers, according to CakeMail.
  • Marketers have until July 1, 2017, to acquire "Express" consent (i.e., opt-in confirmation) for customers that are on email lists through existing business relationships.
  • The legislation is broad and includes aspects that address many types of electronic communications, including social media and mobile messages.
  • For email, the core requirements are that marketers gain consent from subscribers, senders be clearly identified, and consumers have the ability to unsubscribe from lists.

The Differences Between CASL and CAN-SPAM

  • The biggest difference between CASL and the CAN-SPAM Act in the US is that Canada's legislation requires consent, according to CakeMail.
  • In particular, whereas sending emails to purchased or rented lists is not necessarily a violation of CAN-SPAM, it is a violation of CASL.

For more information on the legislation, check out CakeMail's full overview and the Canadian government's CASL website.


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Ayaz Nanji is an independent digital strategist and a co-founder of ICW Content, a marketing agency specializing in content creation for brands and businesses. He is also a research writer for MarketingProfs. He has worked for Google/YouTube, the Travel Channel, AOL, and the New York Times.

LinkedIn: Ayaz Nanji

Twitter: @ayaznanji

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  • by Mihir Mon Jun 9, 2014 via web

    Thank you Ayaz. The article is very informative. The one thing which this article doesn't cover, in my opinion, is the scenario where a business operates in Canada but sends email to customers in the United States.

  • by Ayaz Nanji Mon Jun 9, 2014 via web

    Hi Mihir. Thanks for the comment.

    That's a very good question. I'm not sure of the answer myself, but the folks @cakemail may have some insights.

  • by Crystal Mon Jun 16, 2014 via web

    CASL applies to any electronic message sent, routed or accessed in any way by a computer system in Canada.

  • by Miles Baltrusaitis Mon Jun 30, 2014 via web

    I'm all for playing nice and abhor out-and-out spam. Still, I sometimes feel like bending the spam laws is like speeding on the highway.

    If you follow the rules, everyone else flies by you. You don't see them getting pulled over (unless they're drawing crazy attention to themselves) and you're left wondering whether you should have tried speeding a little.

  • by Mireille from CakeMail Tue Jul 8, 2014 via web

    Sorry it took so long to see Mihir's comment - a thousand apologies.

    "[Does CASL apply in] the scenario where a business operates in Canada but sends email to customers in the United States" ?

    Like Crystal said: yes, it applies to all commercial electronic messages going to or originating from Canada.

  • by Mihir Tue Jul 8, 2014 via web

    Thank you @Ayaz, @Crystal and @Mireille

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