Express Content What's the Deal with Canada's New Anti-Spam Law?

Derek Schou
by Derek Schou 01 Oct, 2014

Email remains one of, if not the best, channel for companies to communicate with consumers.

As the practice has matured, however, so too have the rules and laws governing how businesses operate in this all-important channel.

Now, thanks to Canada's new Anti-Spam Law (CASL), email marketing initiatives (which come in many different forms and functions for companies, from daily newsletters to triggered distributions), have come under fire. No longer can companies blast emails to every recipient in their database. Since its implementation on July 1, companies must now directly receive a consumer's permission to click send.

There are many nuances of the new Canadian Anti-Spam Law that marketers should be aware of, but for the most part it comes down to consent and how that consent is obtained.


The CASL dictates that in order for businesses (no matter how big or small) to send commercial messages to consumers living within Canada's borders (this includes senders from any country in the world), they must obtain "express consent." They must also stop sending emails to those which they only have "implied consent."

The difference between the two is that with implied consent companies do not actually have to obtain permission directly from consumers in order to email them. Instead, they can just assume that consumers who are not asking to be taken off the mailing list actually want to be on it. However, if companies continue to operate in this manner, they leave themselves open to a fine up to $10 million. Yes, $10 million.


There are various ways that companies can receive express consent from their consumers to send communications.

The most obvious way is to simply ask, "Would you like to receive our newsletter?" with a "Yes" and a "No" option accompanying it. This simple question, which can be asked during the checkout process (or at any point in the customer journey), gives companies the legal clearance they need to send consumers emails. Another option is to provide space on a website that is outside of the conversion funnel that allows consumers to sign up for the brand messages/email on their own by willingly providing their email address. Companies could include the copy, "To receive daily deals and coupons sign up for our newsletter" and if the customer signs up, they have their express consent to email them. Pretty simple, really.

One way companies must avoid obtaining express consent from consumers is by asking through email. The CASL clearly states that an email asking for consent to send is illegal. Brands, therefore, must brainstorm other ways to obtain the consent they need, like including an unchecked box during the checkout process that buyers have to check to sign up for an email list.

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Another important aspect of the CASL is that companies must provide a clear unsubscribe process for consumers. Whether companies include a call-to-action at the top of every email or a link at the bottom, there must be a clear and easy way for consumers to either completely opt-out of all emails or at least "opt-down" (an example of this is allowing users to select weekly emails instead of daily). Most importantly, companies must follow through when consumers elect to opt-out of mailing lists.


While the CASL may ultimately impact the size of many brands' email lists, there is a positive side to the law. With consumers having to give their express consent in order to be put on email lists, companies can be sure that their marketing efforts are reaching the most interested consumers. By giving their consent, consumers are indicating they are actively interested in a company, product or service, something implied consent cannot deliver.