What’s up with Canada’s new anti-spam law?

by on June 30, 2014

Canada Anti SpamI’ve been getting a glut of emails from Canadian small businesses and organizations scrambling to comply with the new law going into effect tomorrow (July 1, 2014) – Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). Have you been getting them too and wondering whether you need to do anything?

I figured that some of you out there might be a little confused by this whole change, so this post will give you a real quick low down.

These emails also made me realize just how many organizations weren’t following long-standing email marketing best practices, so it’s an ideal time for a refresher on what this means, whether you communicate with Canadians, or not.

The official rules

When sending out emails, you must comply with the following 3 requirements, as laid out by the CRTC:

  1. obtain consent
  2. provide identification information
  3. provide an unsubscribe mechanism

You’re good to go if…

… you’ve always followed proper email marketing practices, like I’ve talked about here and here.

Everyone on your list has explicitly agreed to be there. You do double opt-in (someone signs up for your list and then confirms this action by clicking on a link in an email).

There is an unsubscribe link at the bottom of all your emails as well as contact details (there is no way someone would not know who is sending the email).

In short, you’re using a reputable email marketing provider (I recommend AWeber, as well as get into some other options here) which covers the above critical aspects of proper email marketing as part and parcel of their service.

You have some work to do if…

… you don’t have the above covered.

You get a business card or meet a new contact and add them to your list without asking them.

People give you their email as part of your business operations and you add them to your list without asking (this is a bit of gray area, as there is an allowance for implied consent, meaning that if you have a relationship and someone is your customer, they expect your emails. But I say, cover your bases and make sure that even these people agree! Thanks to Copyblogger for making me aware of this).

You buy emails lists and go ahead and send them messages without, you guessed it, asking.

If any of this describes your business, your best bet is to take the steps to ensure that you comply with the new regulations. Send out that email (similar to the ones you’ve most likely been getting) asking people to explicitly confirm that they want your emails. If the email system you currently use does not make this easy (or in other words there is no functionality to make this happen seamlessly and automatically), it’s time to make a switch to some that can (again, have a look here).

And from now on, follow the rules!

Wait, social media is included here too!

Before we wrap things up here, it’s important to note that apparently social media is included in this law too. So you can’t message (think direct message on Twitter or the messaging functionality within Facebook) with commercial intent via social channels. Or text messages for that matter. This part of the law is definitely a bit confusing and will most likely be given more clarity as time goes on. But for now, keep this in mind and zip on over to this great post from ClickZ where they cover this a bit more, as well as dig into some of the specifics of the law.

Remember, it is your responsibility to ensure that you are complying with the law and to do your homework, contacting a lawyer if necessary. This post is meant to be helpful. It’s not legal advice 🙂

This is nothing new

The aforementioned proper email marketing protocol is nothing new. Any internet marketer who knows their stuff would have told you to do this for years (but I’ve also known plenty an internet marketer that chose not to follow these best practices!). The Canadian government is now just really forcing businesses to do things legitimately. I think that alot of the big buzz and the rushes to comply have to do with the mega fines for breaking the laws. But I personally think that forcing businesses to sit up and take notice is a good thing.

Anything about the new law you don’t understand? Wondering if how you’ve been sending your emails is OK? Meet you in the comments…

If you need help with your email marketing, from getting yourself set up with a legit provider, creating a strategy for your email communications or just having someone write and send out your e-newsletter, I can help! Just get in touch with me.

Image courtesy of Stuart Miles / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Stu Ducklow July 1, 2014 at 6:19 pm

Your post above didn’t say anything new and added nothing to the discussion, but it did get you some attention on the Canadian government website, which I suspect is the real purpose.

I would rather receive 10 weight-loss ads than have to spend five minutes reading a meaningless post like this. The weight-loss ads I can discard at a glance. You wasted my time.


Martina Iring July 3, 2014 at 9:31 am

Hello Stu,

My goal on this blog is to keep small business owners updated on important information that affects their marketing and to keep things really simple and easy to understand. I respect that that does not resonate with you and I’m certain that there are plenty of other sources of information online that are a better fit for your needs.

I’m not too sure what you mean about the government comment. I wanted to include a link to an official government resource for the benefit of my readers, which does not benefit me tangibly – I’m sure they get thousands of links daily to their official sites from countless websites. I don’t imagine that my linking to them would in any way catch their attention.

Regardless, I honour your right to free will expression, and I wish you all the best on your journey.



Teowai July 4, 2014 at 12:52 am

Thanks for the heads up Martina. I want to forward this to some of the people who have put me on their mailing lists without my consent.
I may not be in Canada but im sure they could do with the heads up in relation to email marketing. Im sure it will be better than marking them as spam like I usually do


Martina Iring July 4, 2014 at 9:29 am

Awesome Teowai 🙂 Even though these new laws here in Canada are apparently some of the strictest in the world, as I say in the post, complying with them really is just about following email marketing best practices. So it’s a good reminder for everyone, regardless of where you are. Thanks for your comment!


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