Back in July of 2014, our government enacted CASL: Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation. At a loss on how to protect Canadians from Nigerian Princes and other such ne’er-do-wells, the Government created guidelines on how everyone should send electronic messages.

The basic rules of CASL are:

  • Ensure the recipient has consented to receive the email
  • Provide the recipient an option to unsubscribe in every electronic message sent
  • Include your physical address with each email

Express consent doesn’t mean double opt-in

The anti-spam legislation says that you must have express consent in order to send information. The recipient must clearly say “yes, please send to me”. We as marketers translate this to a double opt-in as we attempt to ensure our recipients are aware of what they’re signing up for.

I noticed this when I created my quiz with Interact – there was no double opt-in. I was concerned as recipients were providing their email as optin to my list, not just for inspiration to go outside. My solution – email new subscribers to doublecheck they were okay with me sending them a weekly telegram.

How does CASL affect American small businesses?

The United States instituted their own anti-spam legislation, the CAN-SPAM Act, way back in 2003. While similar to CASL, CAN-SPAM is focused more on providing a way to opt-out unlike CASL’s focus on ensuring folks actually opted in.

At a loss on how to protect Canadians from Nigerian Princes and other such ne’er-do-wells, the Government created guidelines on how everyone should send electronic messages. | Prairie Telegraph Digital MarketingAn example would be cold emailing potential clients. Perhaps you have a new program for investment advisors. You compile a list of emails and begin sending them a cold email sequence. According to CAN-SPAM this is okay, as long as you’re clear that you’re advertising and provide the recipient a way to stop receiving emails.

If there are Canadians on your email list, CASL applies to you, too.  The difference in the situation above with Canadian recipients is that you must receive permission to email first. This may mean calling your list and asking permission to send an email with more information on your program prior to sending.

American or Canadian, you can be fined for non-compliance: up to $1 million for individuals or up to $10 million for businesses. Last fall, a large Canadian business was fined $60,000 for sending emails without consent.

On the bright side, plans to allow private right of action have been suspended. If the government does move forward in enacting these sections, it could mean the spam recipient will be able sue the sender. Offenders would pay a fine as well as paying costs to recipients for damages.

It’s not just the government, it’s the email service providers

If your emails are getting caught up in your recipient’s spam filter, this has less to do with legislation and more to do with the email service provider.  Google, for example, boasted back in 2015 that their filters catch 99.9% of spam. Additionally, if you are pasting multiple recipient addresses in the BCC line, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) may block your email address as a spammer. And if your email gets blocked, it can affect every email you send. Plus, it can be a huge hassle to get off your ISP’s outlaw list.

You can avoid the spam folder by asking your clients to mark you as a safe sender, by sending relevant copy that encourages engagement, and sending to a quality, permission-based list.

Using an email marketing manager, like Mailchimp will protect your email address as well as:

  • Allow new members to subscribe safely
  • Allow you to share the opportunity to subscribe without sharing your personal email address
  • Track delivery successes, open rates, click through rates, and see which links get the most clicks
  • Track which users are opening your messages and which are ignoring them
  • Set up an easy “unsubscribe” to manage subscribers automatically
  • Schedule your message to go out exactly when you want

I think that pretty much covers it! Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer and none of the above constitutes legal advice. If you’re unsure of where you stand with anti-spam legislation, reach out to a lawyer.

UPDATE: On May 25, 2018, the General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) go into effect. This is the EU’s CANSPAM/CASL. If there is any chance your subscribers are based there, it affects you, too. This article provides a great overview, but my takeaway is: your subscriber must be aware of every list you place them on and must expressly consent to receive those sort of emails. 


Have I answered all your questions? Have you had run-ins of your own with spam? 

How Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation Could Affect Your Small Business | Prairie Telegraph Digital Marketing