This summer, the Parliament of Canada will be enacting new regulations on how businesses and organizations send promotional email messages to Canadian recipients. The Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation is set to go into effect on July 1, 2014, and its stipulations and consequences are designed to be more severe than those of CAN-SPAM, the U.S. anti-spam law that was passed back in 2003.

In order to avoid possible financial penalties, and issues with disgruntled recipients, senders need to review their marketing policies and procedures to make sure they are in compliance with CASL.

7 Steps to CASL Compliance

Though the Canadian government is giving senders until 2017 before they could potentially face litigation for violating CASL, it’s in your best interest to get your business or organization in compliance before the July 1, 2014 date kicks in.

Here are seven steps to becoming CASL compliant:

1. Identify your Canadian recipients and the type of consent you have for them.

One of the ambiguous areas of the Canadian Anti-Spam Law concerns the issue of being able to identify email addresses from Canada. Because millions of people use email addresses from free domains like Google and Yahoo, and don’t always provide the sender with their personal information, the sender often has no idea about the recipient’s location.

The law states that senders are required to apply CASL guidelines to those recipients that they can ‘reasonably ascertain’ are from Canada.

Here are a few ways to identify your Canadian recipients:

  • Domain name: the easiest of all would be to segment recipients who have email accounts ending in ‘.ca’.
  • Cross-reference business domains: because many organizations often use their own domains in their email addresses, you can cross-reference domain names with company locations.
  • Personal information recipients have provided: identify anyone in your database with a physical Canadian address.
  • Geolocation of their IP address: but please note, this method is not always accurate. 

2. Attempt to get Express consent from Canadian recipients.

Though many senders are discouraged by the prospect of having to reach out to recipients to acquire explicit consent, this is actually a great opportunity to clean up your mailing lists, and establish trust and credibility with your recipients.

Here are a few visual ideas for establishing Express consent…

Embed a message in your Email Templates that provides a link to a consent page on all your communications.

This email would then point to a Consent Landing Page that either you or Real Magnet creates.

If you have a Subscription Management Page, you could modify it to look similar to this:


3. Update existing email sign-up forms (uncheck the opt-in checkbox). Whether you have many Canadian recipients or none at all, having unchecked opt-in checkboxes on your registration forms has always been an email marketing best practice. While this strategy could potentially cut down on your overall number of subscribers, the ones who do consciously agree to receive your messages are more likely to be solid prospects, and less likely to unsubscribe or register a SPAM complaint. Overall, this is a great way to keep your lists clean and current. 

4. Document Implied and Express consent. Part of the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation outlines time limits for what they call “implied consent”. Implied consent is where the recipient has not explicitly stated that they want to receive the sender’s messages, but there is an ongoing business relationship that implies that the recipient is interested in hearing from the sender. Being able to identify when someone’s implied consent expires is critical to remaining CASL compliant.

Here is how CASL defines Implied consent and the associated expire dates:

  • Purchase made (2 years)
  • Donation/gift made – charity/political (2 years)
  • Volunteer work/meeting attended – charity/political (2 years)
  • Inquiry or application (6 months)
  • Membership/subscription/account/lease (2 years*)
  • Contract between sender/recipient (2 years*)

* 2 years from expiration

5. Turn Implied consent into Express consent. Once you’ve documented the Implied consent you have for your recipients and the expiration dates associated with them, you can launch campaigns to:

  • Convert Implied consent into Express consent
  • Suppress those who have not provided Express consent

One way to convert Implied consent into Express consent is to launch a campaign, similar to a membership renewal campaign, that would inform the recipient with a series of reminder messages that the their implied permission is about to expire, while giving them a chance to provide explicit consent to receiving your messages.

6. Implement internal policies for CASL compliance. In order to remain CASL compliant, make sure that everyone in your business or organization is on the same page regarding CASL regulations. Set up internal policies and procedures so that anyone sending messages understands how they are expected to handle recipients that fall into various CASL categories.

7. Make sure your partner/vendor contracts are CASL compliant. Many businesses and organizations employ outside companies to develop marketing materials, and even create and send promotional emails on their behalf. It is of absolute importance to understand that any message sent to Canadian recipients on your behalf, even by a 3rd party, is considered YOUR responsibility under CASL.

So it is critical to make sure that any contract you have with an outside vendor or partner who is doing marketing on your behalf states that they are explicitly contractually obligated to adhere to CASL guidelines.

And Remember…
CASL’s requirements are in line with current email marketing best practices. So even if you don’t have any Canadian recipients, making sure that your email practices are up to CASL standards is a great way to build rapport with your recipients, and show that you are a quality, trustworthy and responsible sender.

Implementing these steps within your business or organization will help you get up to speed with CASL regulations. Still, the law includes vague language and grey areas, so we recommend that you seek legal counsel to make sure you’re adhering to all the stipulations outlined in Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation.