How the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL) Can Affect You From Outside of Canada

As email campaigns become even more aggressive, a new law introduced in Canada known as CASL “Canadian Anti-Spam Law” went into effect on July 1st, 2014. If you have heard about the new law and never took any action, I hope this article helps you understand the risks you are taking. It’s easy to pass off as a “Canadian issue”, but this legislation affects everyone, everywhere in the world.

The big reason no one outside of Canada feels it’s necessary to make changes to their email opt in forms is because they think they are already compliant with their own local standards, such as CAN-SPAM in the United States, for example. Or some marketers and business owners think that because their servers are outside of Canada, that when a Canadian opts in to their mailing lists via their web forms (or added manually), that the user has “crossed the border” and therefore aren’t subject to the laws of another Country.

I hate to break it to you, but you are still at risk.

The big change for most businesses is all about the way a user “opts in” to a form or mailing list. Many of you reading this already have the fundamental components in place such as a Privacy Policy, an Unsubscribe mechanism, and your address or email on the web form. But do you know that you are still subject to fines if you don’t change the form to a “positive” acknowledgment to receive marketing materials, such as a tick box or “yes/no” selection?

Assuming that you can send electronic marketing messages to your existing list members from Canada, without this express consent, is a cause for concern under this new legislation. That’s why a lot of companies are taking action now and asking their Canadian list members for permission to continue to send marketing messages to them. Without that consent, the list members should be removed, unless they meet certain exemptions. Those exemptions are too numerous to mention here, but you can learn about them at the Canadian Government’s website:

Although compliance with CAN-SPAM and other local anti-spam regulation is great, there are a couple of intricacies that you need to know to avoid fines. According to the Canadian Government’s website, “Penalties for the most serious violations of the Act can go as high as $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses.” and on Twitter they posted “If you do #emailmarketing from Canada or to Canadians, the new anti-spam law applies”. So it’s worth looking into immediately, as we are passed the launch date of July 1st, 2014.

Which brings us to enforcement. When a US company collects the personal information of residents of Canada and sends them commercial electronic messages, the CASL regulator has powers to share information with the government of foreign states in its enforcement activities. The penalties under CASL may therefore extend to senders of messages located outside of Canada where the messages are sent to people in Canada, and the regulator has been given the power to enforce it from a practical perspective.

I hope everyone reading this take the time to make the necessary changes to their internet marketing practise. As industry leaders, it’s imperative that we set an example and protect ourselves, from no matter where in the world we operate our businesses.

Alexander Gray


Skylight Global Inc.

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