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Canada’s Anti-Spam Law

email spamThere’s a reason why Canadian email accounts have been flooded by requests from companies and organizations that want to retain their contacts this spring. Canada’s new anti-spam legislation and regulations came into force on July 1st, 2014.

Almost 70% of all email circulating in the world is spam and it’s estimated the cost the Canadian economy is over $3 billion a year. Simply stated, the Canadian government takes the position that their citizens should not receive email they don’t want or did not ask to receive. That’s why Canada is moving from an opt out model  ie. implied consent to an opt in model  ie. express consent. Express consent received before July 1, 2014, remains valid and does not expire until the recipient withdraws it.

Implied consent is only considered valid for a period of two years after the consent is granted. And no type of organization, including charities and not-for-profit organizations, is exempt from the Canadian anti-spam law,

The new legislation (CASL) was developed to deal with electronic spam and has two main objectives:
1. To limit the ability of companies to send emails that are unwanted and unasked for;
2. To prohibit and control unwanted downloads of programs onto people’s computers.

CASL requires businesses to acquire express consent from customers to communicate with them, and the burden of proof re: proving consent lies with the sender. No matter where your business is located if you are targeting a Canadian market  with a Commercial Electronic Message (CEM), CASL applies, as the law expands information sharing with all G7 countries, or countries that have similar anti-spamming laws.

The new legislation (CASL)  prohibits the sending of commercial electronic messages without the recipient’s consent (permission), including messages to email addresses and social networking accounts, and text messages sent to a cell phone; … click here for more Fast Facts on the prohibitions and penalties.

Commercial Electronic Messages are Legion

Electronic marketing is directly marketing a commercial message to a group of people using email and/or direct messaging group of people registered on media platforms.  Electronic marketing is big business.

Email address lists and social media friends and followers lists have become assets that are bought and sold.  That’s why we see so many publications with words to the effect of “your email list is your biggest asset“. It’s also why publisher’s agents advise authors with books to sell to increase up their social media followers and provide newsletter subscriptions and/or free content.

Annoying In your face subscription boxes that pop-up before you have even read an article are commonly found on many sites, and that’s not to mention the annoying toolbars and pop-under bars masquerading as sharing aids. On some sites every article published has a subscription link to click in addition to the pop-up and po-under subscription options and, of course, almost every site has one of the the ubiquitous subscription widgets in the sidebar.

Offering special deals or free content or launching discount campaigns featuring price reductions to those who will be first to purchase, and to those who will share commercial email and social network messages on their websites, and/or with their friends/followers on social media is commonplace. Embedded affiliate links are also found in article after article.

Making a single purchase on any shopping site can result in being spammed repeatedly, simply because the opt-in language cleverly disguises the fact that the email address being requested will not be used solely used for that one transaction.

The new Canadian anti-spam law will have a major impact on businesses that rely on the ability to email and/or send direct messages of a commercial nature to members of social networks, but it doesn’t affect what’s posted to Facebook walls of Twitter accounts. CASL applies to emails, text and instant messages, and any similar messages sent to electronic addresses, but not to promotional information you post online in places like blogs or social media pages.

Under CASL there are three general requirements for sending a commercial electronic messages (CEM); expressed or implied consent, identification of sender and, a simple unsubscribe mechanism. And, there’s a three year transition period allowed to get in line with the legislation.
I welcome this new legislation. Do you?

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34 thoughts on “Canada’s Anti-Spam Law

  1. Man, that sounds great!– please let me know if you figure out how to stop phone solicitations!!

    And I, too, sayeth: “Curse thee, thou foul and most rank pop-up subscription boxes!!” : )

  2. I applaud the efforts you noted that aim to reduce spam. As a U.S. citizen, I wish we had the same policies in place that Canada has. You mentioned one of my pet peeves, timethief, those pop up boxes on web sites. Just when I begin reading an article, these annoying boxes pop up and I have to stop and figure out where the little ‘x’ is to close the box before I can continue reading

    Spam is one of the reasons why I do not click on anything even when it promises me the chance of winning lots of money or some other big prize. Let’s hope this great idea to reduce spam spreads..

    • I haven’t really gone anywhere except to medical appointments.I’m still answering support forum questions when I can as I always do.:)

    • It will be interesting to see the effects of the law on the spammers and scammers.
      P.S. I’m not well but I’m maintaining a positive attitude.

  3. I welcome the new law except there are times when an organization sends out a permission to send me notices, I kinda wonder if I ever did subscribe to them. Or it’s a fake subscription scheme to hook me in… Tiring.

  4. We have a similar law in South Africa, though I don’t think it’s as strict as the Canadian one. It looks good on paper, but over here actual enforcement of that law is not very good, mostly because there’s not a very effective system in place to report wrongdoers. But I’m pretty sure Canada will do better in that regard.

    • Hi there,
      Enforcement is, of course, the key to success. Harmonization between countries as far as anti-spam legislation goes will lead to a better enforcement situation. The world over we people need to tell our legislators that we have had more than enough.

  5. It will be interesting to see how the new law pans out. The ability to “…prohibit and control unwanted downloads of programs onto people’s computers” alone would make it worthwhile.

    • I agree but enforcement is going to be difficult so as we know spammers and scammers devote lots of time and resources to figuring out new methods for doing their dirty work.

  6. Yes! Yes! Yes! Canadians have so much more influence with their government than we Americans have with ours. Of course, here money talks. Email spammers, from Google to Forbes to the Wall Street Journal to just about every other merchant peddling its wares on the net can finance some pols campaign and get legislation favorable to business; the real people be damned. Despite what Mittens claimed, corporations are not people. “Opt-in” is the only ethical model and here it is resisted tooth and nail. “Opt-out” doesn’t work because it is just too cumbersome and was only made available in a limited way to quiet the noise. I applaud Canada for CASL and only wish it was present here.

    TT, if you know, what will happen with all those Ad-Sense in-context ads in gmail? I’m ashamed to admit I helped develop that functionality at a company Google purchased in 2008.

    • Hi there,
      It’s good to hear that you agree with the intent of the legislation. I agree that “opt in” is the only ethical method and I’m so glad the Canadian government listened to us citizens. We have had it with the deluge of spam the “opt in” model has resulted in.

      P.S. I am sorry but I don’t know, is the answer to your Google Adsense question.

  7. Oh absolutely I agree with the legislation! These spammers should be in prison as far as I am concerned. The popups and unwanted garbage that occasionally sneaks it’s way onto my Mac really cranks me off. They (spammers) are abusive. I shouldn’t have to have two email addresses, one for spam, the other for friends, family and WordPress… Great article.

    • Hi John
      I feel like we are on the same page. Spammers make me very angry but what pisses me off even more is bloggers who are using email marketing spamming techniques. I am incensed that an blogger might categorize me as a potential customer simply because I subscribe to read their posts or subscribe to their newsletter.

      • Understood. Agreed! I am very cautious about who I subscribe to and currently have less than 100 I subscribe to. They must be what I term ‘genuine blogger’. Not a blog with a sales goal nicely hidden away. You can spot them if you dig into the site. Just read your post, hope you feel better.

  8. [ Smiles ] Now, it is time for the rest of the world to follow Canada’s example, because spam is highly annoying.

    • It’s worse than annoying. Some of it contains non-apparent download links. Some of it contains hidden affiliate links.Some are phishing emails and the list goes on.

    • It’s my understanding that there are 67 countries with similar legislation but Canada’s is the most harsh and comprehensive anti-spam law.

      • Assuming the UK is one of the 67 countries with similar legislation (though I doubt it, looking at my junk folder getting fatter by the day), they really should pull their finger out and toughen up. If Canada can do it, why not us?

        Oh, and while we’re at it, I agree with you wholeheartedly about subscription boxes on websites. They’re a particularly rancid and rampant feature that pop up whenever I click on an article link from a Twitter feed on my phone before I get a chance to even sniff an article. They hack me right off.

        I read your other post. I just subscribed to your blog, TT, so I’m going nowhere! I hope all will be well with you.

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