In today’s rapidly growing digital world, our electronic inboxes are constantly flooded with emails and electronic messages, often including many unwanted spam messages. Enter Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), designed to govern commercial electronic communications in Canada since 2014. The anti-spam law is in place to create a safer and more secure online environment for Canadian citizens and businesses. It helps to reduce spam, protect privacy, promote trust, foster competition, and align with the global standards in electronic communication regulation. The law is necessary for businesses operating in Canada or reaching out to Canadian audiences to understand the anti-spam law.
Understanding CASL is essential for:
- Legal compliance
- Protecting your reputation
- Ensuring data security
- Improving efficiency
- Building trust
- Gaining a competitive edge
- Successfully engaging with Canadian audiences
It’s not only just a matter of compliance; it’s a strategic and ethical approach to electronic communication. From figuring out what CASL compliance constitutes to understanding the different types of consent you need to get before sending, read further as we navigate the complexities of CASL.
What is Spam?
First of all, what even is spam? Spam is unsolicited and often irrelevant or inappropriate electronic messages sent in bulk to a large number of recipients, typically via email. These messages can include advertisements, promotional offers, phishing attempts, and other forms of unwanted communication.
Spam is a concern because it:
- Overwhelms inboxes
- Wastes time and resources
- Threatens data security
- Tarnishes reputations
- Can have legal consequences
Businesses need an effective strategy to combat spam and make sure that their digital communication remains efficient, secure, and compliant. Nobody likes spam!
Does CASL Canada Apply to My Business?
Well, if you’re sending any form of electronic, commercial communication outside of your organization, CASL Canada will most likely apply to your business, however, some factors to help determine are:
Do you have a Canadian connection?
The legislation applies to businesses that have a “Canadian connection.” This connection can take two forms:
- Location: If your business is located or operates within Canada, CASL compliance is essential. This includes businesses physically based in Canada or have a ‘.ca’ domain.
- Recipient Location: CASL Canada applies if your business, even if you’re located outside Canada, sends electronic messages to recipients in Canada or targets Canadian customers or contacts.
Are you sending Electronic Messages?
Electronic messages include emails, text messages, and other forms of “commercial electronic messages” that promote or advertise commercial activities.
What is your Purpose?
If your business communicates electronically for non-commercial purposes, such as personal or non-profit activities, CASL compliance is not a requirement.
What is a “Commercial Electronic Message” (CEM)?
A Commercial Electronic Message (CEM) under CASL Canada includes any electronic message that encourages participation in commercial activities.
Key components are:
Message Type: A CEM is not limited to only traditional email communications and can include, but not limited to, emails, SMS text messages, and instant messages.
Content: CASL Canada considers a message as commercial if it contains content that promotes, advertises, or offers to sell products, services, or other commercial opportunities.
Purpose: Messages that contain both commercial and non-commercial content are classified as CEMs if their primary purpose is commercial.
What are the Requirements for CASL Compliance?
As mentioned, it is necessary to follow the anti-spam legislation when sending commercial electronic messaging and to adhere to the below requirements.
Consent from Recipient
CASL compliance involves two main consent types: express and implied. To meet CASL Canada requirements, businesses must request consent transparently and maintain records of this consent. You must get consent before sending any sort of commercial messaging. Additionally, businesses must let recipients easily unsubscribe and withdraw from messages at any time.
Identification Information from Sender
There are specific requirements on CEMs for clarity and recipient control. This involves clear sender identification, including the sender’s name, physical mailing address, and contact information, making it easy for recipients to get in touch.
CEMs must incorporate a functional and easily noticeable unsubscribe mechanism, simplifying the process for recipients who wish to opt out of further communications.
Businesses are required to maintain consent records, documenting when and how consent was obtained, as proof of CASL compliance with regulations. They must also establish an efficient process for handling complaints related to CASL violations, which includes promptly unsubscribing recipients after their use of the “unsubscribe” option.
Penalties for Non-Compliance
There are significant penalties for non-compliance, including fines for both individuals and organizations. Businesses and organizations must follow these regulations to avoid hefty penalties and maintain a respectful and responsible approach to sending CEMs in Canada.
Penalties and repercussions for non-compliance of CASL Canada could include:
- Financial penalties for both Individuals and Corporations
- Personal liability
- Class actions
- Reputation damage
- Legal costs
- Complaint investigations by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC)
- Loss of business opportunities
What Are CASL Consent Types?
As mentioned above, there are two main consent types for CASL compliance.
1. Express Consent
This is the most common way for obtaining consent. Express consent signifies that the recipient has provided clear and unmistakable permission to receive CEMs from a specific sender. This permission is often obtained through opt-in mechanisms, such as checkboxes or toggles on subscription forms, where individuals actively indicate their desire to receive communications.
Express consent has no expiration date unless the recipient chooses to withdraw it. It allows businesses to send CEMs indefinitely as long as the recipient continues to consent!
2. Implied Consent
Implied consent arises from certain pre-existing relationships or interactions with the recipient. It often arises when there is an existing business, non-business, or family relationship between the sender and the recipient. For example, if someone has recently made a purchase from a business, there may be implied consent to receive related communications.
There is also a time limit for implied consent. It starts from the date of the last transaction or interaction. After this period, businesses must obtain express consent to continue sending CEMs.
There are certain types of messages and situations that are exempt from CASL Canada regulations, however, regulations may change over time so it’s important to stay informed.
CASL Canada does not apply to personal, non-commercial electronic messages sent between individuals for personal and family reasons. Individuals can communicate freely without being subject to CASL’s requirements.
Messages to Enforce Legal Rights or Provide Legal Notices
Messages that have a legal purpose and that are sent to enforce legal rights or provide legal notices, such as debt collection or legal proceedings, are exempt from CASL regulations.
Messages to Existing Business Relationships
CASL Canada recognizes and provides exemptions for certain existing business relationships. These include:
- Messages sent within the organization.
- And messages sent to fulfill a transaction, deliver a product or service, or provide updates on a previous transaction or agreement.
Charitable and Political Organizations
Still complying with specific requirements, some electronic messages sent by registered charities for fundraising purposes or by political organizations seeking donations or support are exempt from CASL compliance.
Messages Sent in Response to Inquiries
Responses to inquiries or requests for information from recipients are exempt as long as the message content is relevant to the recipient’s initial inquiry.
Public Safety and Health Messages
Messages related to public safety and health, including emergency alerts and recalls, are exempt from CASL regulations as they are considered essential for public welfare.
How 1st on the List Can Help
One of the main reasons CASL Canada regulations were designed is to maintain trust in online communication, which plays a big part in businesses of today. Does your content marketing or website content and design encourage CASL compliance? Do you have an effective way to transparently and clearly gather consent from individuals before sending CEMs?
From website design to content writing to content strategies, we’re here to help identify compliance opportunities. With over 25 years of experience, we are the digital marketing experts who consistently deliver results and grow business’s visibility for clients throughout Canada and the US. Call [1-877-562-1750] or contact us today!
1st on the List has provided this information and links as a courtesy and is in no way representative of the opinions stated therein. This is not intended to be a full analysis of how CASL Canada may apply to you. If you feel your site is not meeting acceptable standards we recommend contacting legal representation.