All You Need to Know: Canada’s Anti-Spam Law

Marketers, watch out!

As of July 1, 2014, there’s a new spam law in town, and violating it could cost your business up to $10 million.

Here’s everything you need to know…


First and foremost, let’s appreciate the fact that the Canadian government gets digital marketing. They understand that we, the digital public, have the attention span of goldfish. So, the Canadian government made a one-minute video to help marketers understand the new law.

Here’s a brief summary:

Basically, Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) boils down to a three-prong test:

  • Permission: Do you have either explicit or implicit permission to contact the person whom you are e-mailing?
  • Identification: Do you identify who you are in the e-mail?
  • Unsubscribe: Do you give your recipients the option to unsubscribe from your e-mails?

Now let’s break down these prongs even further.

Prong 1: What is the difference between implicit and explicit permission?

Here are a few examples of explicit consent:

  1. Visitors fill out a form on a website.
  2. Online shoppers check a box during checkout. (Note: The opt-in box cannot be pre-checked!)
  3. Prospects give oral consent to opt into marketing messages.

And here are a few examples of people who have given you implicit consent to contact them:

  1. A customer
  2. A client
  3. A donor to your non-profit
  4. A member of your club

With explicit consent, there is no time limit. Marketers can continue to contact individuals until they unsubscribe.

With implicit consent, there is a time limit of two years after the event that starts the relationship (e.g. the date when someone becomes a customer).

For more information on the rules of consent, visit this web page.

Prong 2: How do marketers have to identify themselves?

Marketers must include the following:

  1. Their name
  2. Their business
  3. The name of anyone else on whose behalf they are writing
  4. A current mailing address

Marketers must also include one of the following items:

  1. A phone number
  2. An e-mail address
  3. Web address

All contact information must be valid for up to 60 days after sending the message.

For more information, check out this infographic.

Prong 3: Do marketers need to include an unsubscribe option in every e-mail?

Plain and simple: Yes.

And you must honor unsubscribe requests within 10 days.

When will Canada start fining people?

The Canadian government is overly kind. They have given marketers a 36-month grace period to obtain consent. No one will be able to bring a case to the courts until July 2017.

Should I go back and re-read the privacy policies of the marketing platforms I’ve used?

I can’t give you legal advice. I’m not a lawyer. I’ve never played one on TV.

But I can say that, since reading about the law, I’ve dug through the privacy policies of the marketing platforms that Trapit is using.

For instance, we have been conducting webinars on BrightTALK. When BrightTALK users register for and attend our webinars, we have access to their contact information. But does having access to the users’ information mean that we have the right to contact them?

As the head of all things digital at Trapit, I had to determine whether we had permission to contact the Canadian registrants and attendees for our webinars. To find out, I pored over BrightTALK’s privacy policy, looking for lines like this one:

In attending or viewing a Channel, Summit, webinar, video or other content, you consent to our sharing your Profile Information with the Content Owner who may use such information to provide you with marketing messages

Phew! We’re safe!

For non-lawyers, reading legalese isn’t a fun job, but as marketers, we sometimes have to do it.

Should I be worried about this law?

Let’s face it. Some of us are born worriers. But generally speaking, if you follow the best practices for e-mail, you shouldn’t be worried. Here are a few tips:

Tip 1: Don’t buy third-party lists.

Remember that the contact must have some kind of connection to your business. With third-party lists, neither implicit nor explicit consent is guaranteed.

Tip 2: Do keep track of when your contacts opted into your e-mail list.

This is especially important in cases of implicit consent. Your donors, customers, and volunteers have a time limit of two years, so your marketing department is going to have to determine the best way to manage your implicit relationships.

Here’s an idea: Toward the end of the two-year relationship, run a campaign that would give you explicit consent. Ask them to download an e-book and fill out a form. Ask them to subscribe to your blog. Ask them to explicitly opt-into your e-mail newsletter. Whatever works for your business.

Tip 3: Do keep track of how your contacts opted into your e-mail list.

In the event of a court trial, you’re going to have to show the judges how you obtained someone’s contact information. It’s better to err on the side of caution.

Tip 4: Do send your marketing e-mails via a marketing automation platform.

According to the law, you need to provide an unsubscribe option at the bottom of every e-mail, and services like MailChimp or Hubspot include that information for you.

Tip 5: Do include your contact information in your e-mails.

Not only are you complying with the law, but you are establishing credibility.

For more information on CASL

Please visit

That’s all, folks…

Until next Monday,



Here are a few of those webinars that I mentioned:

Leave a Reply