Summary of Canada's Anti-Spam Law

Associaton of Strategic Marketing
March 27, 2013 — 1,376 views  
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The status of the recently introduced Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) has been under the limelight for sometime now. It does not seem likely that this law will come into force until late 2013, until all the operational details are made official. Meanwhile, it's important to understand the recent developments, the progress made by the CRTC (Canada Radio-Television Telecommunications Commission), and the steps to be taken before the law is made official.

An Overview of the CASL

Once the CASL is put into action, Canada's anti-spam law will be considered one among the sternest anti-spam programs on the planet. It will affect individuals and organizations that are using any form of electronic marketing. Also, it will expand the jurisdiction of the Competition Bureau for reviewing certain kinds of advertising and electronic marketing, imposing restrictions for collecting e-mail addresses and prohibiting installation of software on computers without the user's consent.

The new law will also necessitate businesses to adhere to detailed requirements for sending commercial electronic messages (CEMs) including express or implied consent, form requirements for consent requests and CEMs, record-keeping obligations, and a requirement for unsubscribing. It will also carry potential penalties of up to $1 million to individuals and $10 million to companies if they don’t adhere to the rules.

Recent Developments

There have been some significant developments that have occurred in the past year with respect to the CASL.

  • Regulations from Industry Canada that elucidate the CASL exemptions, first published in July of 2011 for comments, have not yet been finalized and are anticipated sometime in fall this year.
  • The Electronic Commerce Protection Regulations from the CRTC, which declare the requirements for form requirements, unsubscribe mechanisms and requests consent, were finalized and were published. The backgrounder issued along with new regulations also provides a useful overview about the new regulations.
  • CRTC has not issued any guidelines. The CASL website is the best resource available to keep yourself updated on the progress and status of Canada's anti-spam law.
  • Recent reports from CRTC discuss its role in enforcing CASL.
  • The Privacy Commissioner and Competition Bureau have published new pages for CASL overview.
  • In 2011 summer, the government launched a brand new website for the new legislation which provides an overview of the new legislation.
  • A center for Spam Reporting was started, where businesses, consumers and organizations could report CEMs sent without consent or with misleading or false content.
  • The Competition Bureau, in March 2012, brought out the 'Little Black Book of Scams', which discusses issues related to spam.
  • In April, the government released a spam glossary and a 'Fight Spam Quiz' to help organizations and individuals to gear up for the new law.
  • CASL is likely to be put into action by late 2013 after the Regulations by Industry Canada are issued in fall.

Practical Steps to Take

It is a good idea for companies and individuals who rely significantly on electronic marketing to take a few steps based on intricacy of the rules, before Canada's anti-spam law comes in force. Getting express consent wherever it is required, reviewing marketing, updating messages and consent notices to comply with requirements, keeping records of obtained consents, identifying contacts to be deleted, determining which contacts have given 'implied' consent, etc., are a few steps which can be taken.

You should also consider updating CASL compliance among your compliance programs, setting up a procedure to regularly refresh consents or delete contacts, monitoring CASL and adapting to its policies, ensuring contacts are unsubscribed without delay, and making sure all advertising and marketing complies with the Canadian law. This will help you to be prepared for CASL which will be effective soon.

Associaton of Strategic Marketing