On July 1, Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) came into effect. The law is vastly different from the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act, with stricter provisions and heavier fines. CASL was enacted to protect Canadian citizens from electronic-message spam, which includes email, social media, instant messages, SMS, and voice mail. Importantly, ecommerce companies that send emails to Canadian residents must adhere to CASL.
This article answers common questions from ecommerce merchants to ensure they are operating in accordance to the new law.
Who does the law apply to?
Any businesses operating in Canada, or businesses that send emails to Canadian residents, are affected by the new law and must adhere to it for Canadian recipients. Here is a video from the federal government in Canada that explains.
What are the similarities between CASL and CAN-SPAM?
Both CASL and CAN-SPAM require that every email message include an unsubscribe method and that unsubscribes are processed within 10 days from request. Both require a physical mailing address and clearly identify the mailer within the body of every email message. Messages cannot be misleading or deceptive to the consumer.
What are the differences between CASL and CAN-SPAM?
Under CASL, a sender must receive express consent from an individual prior to sending any electronic message. “Implied consent” refers to individuals who did not specifically opt-in to your communications, but may have a business relationship with your company. If these individuals have been receiving emails from you, there is a grace period of three years to get an express consent opt-in from them. Otherwise it is not permissible to communicate with them. Automatically subscribing individuals to a newsletter after a purchase or other action is no longer allowed. In addition, using a pre-checked subscribe box is not permitted. Unlike CASL, CAN-SPAM permits a sender to email an individual who may not have given express consent previously.
CASL applies to all commercial electronic messages including email, social media, instant messages, SMS, voice mail, and any other form of electronic communication, whereas CAN-SPAM is limited to just commercial email. CASL includes transactional and triggered email messages that are a result of an action an individual takes on a website, whereas these messages are excluded from CAN-SPAM since it is a result of a previous relationship or inquiry from a consumer.
What are the potential CASL fines?
CASL carries a maximum $10 million penalty for any business that violates that law. The fine for an individual is up to $1 million. In addition, CASL allows Canadian citizens the right to pursue damages in a private civil suit. These fines are subject to senders outside of Canada who are sending messages to recipients within Canada.
What next steps should ecommerce companies take?
First, identify subscribers or customers located in Canada. For subscribers with unknown locations, append their email addresses to physical locations (database companies offer this service) to determine if they reside Canada. Non-compliant recipients (those who did not give express consent) should be deleted or archived and not used.
CASL requires that express consent be documented. So keep track of future subscribers and customers from Canada as to when and how they provide consent. Web forms and other opt-in mechanisms on your site should be reviewed to ensure they are compliant with CASL.