Understanding Canada’s Anti-Spam Law

UPDATE: Canada’s anti-spam law to come into force on July 1, 2014

March 21, 2014 -Don’t be fooled by its name. You don’t need to be a spammer, or even be located in Canada, for legislation known as “Canada’s anti-spam law” or “CASL” to regulate important elements of your business.  CASL establishes rules for the sending of commercial electronic messages (CEMs) and the installation of computer programs. CASL also prohibits the unauthorized alteration of transmission data.

The Minister of Industry issued new final regulations in December 2013 and announced that CASL will be enforced in three phases:

  • The rules that apply to CEMs come into force on July 1, 2014, giving businesses mere months to inventory their electronic marketing practices, align these practices with CASL and implement changes to their business processes and customer relationship management (CRM) systems;
  • The provisions relating to the unsolicited installation of computer programs or software will come into force on January 15, 2015;
  • The private right of action will be enforced as of July 1, 2017

Many everyday activities – such as sending an email message to a customer, operating a company website and making a mobile application available for download – will soon be subject to new, detailed rules that will likely require you to make significant changes to your operational practices or face significant fines.

What You Need to Know About Sending CMEs

•   CASL applies to everyone—individuals, incorporated and unincorporated businesses, not-for-profit organizations, etc.—who sends electronic messages for commercial purposes.

•   Under CASL, electronic messages can include emails, SMS text messages, instant messages and messages sent through social networks.

•   CASL defines a CEM as a message that encourages participation in a commercial activity. This includes advertisements and information about promotions, offers, business opportunities, events, etc.

•   Under CASL, consent is required before sending a CEM. Yet, an electronic message that is sent to obtain consent to send a message for commercial purposes is also considered a CEM.

The intent of the legislation is to deter the most damaging and deceptive forms of spam, such as identity theft, phishing and spyware, from occurring in Canada and to help to drive out spammers.

Ultimately, the goal is to reduce the harmful effects of spam and related threats to electronic commerce and work towards a safer and more secure online marketplace. It is believed that Canada’s new anti-spam legislation will better protect Canadians while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete in the global marketplace.

Although the implementation date of July 1st, 2014 may seem rather swift, this new legislation has actually been a long time coming. Public consultations on spam and malware were held as far back as 2004, the legislation was passed in 2010, and Electronic Commerce Protection Regulations adopted in 2013.

The new rules will be enforced by three regulators with active enforcement offices and by the courts. Anyone who believes they have been affected by your non-compliance will have standing to commence a private action. Class actions are widely expected.

The time to prepare for the new rules is now.

Preparing for CASL

The following resources will help prepare your organization for compliance:

Webinar: What You Need to Know About Canada’s New Anti?Spam Legislation
Hosted by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Council of Canada

PowerPoint: What You Need to Know About Canada’s New Anti?Spam Legislation
Provided by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce and the Retail Council of Canada

Q & A on CASL
Prepared by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce

How to Prepare for CASL
Prepared by the Canadian Chamber of Commerce

Government of Canada’s Resource Centre for Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

Full Text of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law

Memorandum of Understanding between the CRTC, the Commissioner of Competition and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada re information sharing and enforcement activities under CASL


CRTC’s regulations, interpretation bulletins and FAQs that clarify how they interpret and intend to enforce the new rules:

Electronic Commerce Protection Regulations

Guidelines on the Interpretations of the Electronic Commerce Protection Regulations

Guidelines on the Use of Toggling as a Means of Obtaining Express Consent Under Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation



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Isabelle Foley

As Director of Member Success I strive to help members connect and get the most out of their chamber membership. I am an advocate for local businesses and passionate about spotlighting our community's success. Join the growth!


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