Canadians: New Email Legislation You Need To Know! - Radiant

The Radiant Blog

Posted by Andrew VanderPloeg

Canadian flag merging into a castle

[Recently, we welcomed MBA Graduate, Jeremy Ward, to our offices as a short-term communications strategist. Despite graduating only a few years ago, Jeremy boasts some great experience and brings with him a sharp mind and a great ability to write -  so much so that I'm pleased to introduce him here as one of the co-authors of this very important post.]

If you’ve been paying attention to your inbox recently, you might have seen the result of Canada’s new Anti-Spam Legislation that is coming into effect very soon - July 1st to be exact. In the event that you don't know about it, we thought it would be a good idea to get a note and explanation out there as the deadline is looming.

For those who aren’t familiar with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation ("CASL"), pronounced “castle”, it is one of the strictest Anti-Spam policies in the world. But don’t let that scare you; we think these changes will make a positive impact on the world of online marketing and advertising. Understood correctly, these changes could actually force you to improve your communication practices by focusing on your audience and helping you develop better-qualified leads.

If online, direct marketing is an important part of your organization's communications program, there are a few crucial actions you need to take in the next couple weeks to stay on the up-and-up. CASL comes into effect as of July 1st 2014, and there are 3 key requirements to get and remain compliant:

For each and every electronic address in your database:

  • You must obtain consent to send messages to them
  • You must provide identification information
  • You must provide an unsubscribe mechanism

Let's talk about what each of those things mean as much as we can understand them at this time:


Starting on July 1, 2014 you must have consent to send Commercial Electronic Messages (CEM's) to any contact. This includes emails, text messages or messages through social media that are intended to promote or sell a product or service.

Where you already have a business or non-business relationship with the recipient, there is a 3-year transition period where consent is implied. During that time you need to get their expressed consent where a recipient makes an affirmative action in order to opt-in to future messages. This could include selecting a check box to opt-in to email campaigns, or requesting information through your website. Once you have expressed consent it does not expire until the recipient asks to be excluded.

So, for instance, last week, I received an email from my insurance broker in which I needed to confirm that I wanted to continue receiving email from them. By just clicking a big, blue button that said "Yes, I consent", they would have stored my consent, how they got my consent and the date of my consent in their database and by doing that, were brought into compliance as far as my email address is concerned.

Identification Information:

Compliance here is really quite simple, and we hope you’re already doing it. All you have to do is identify yourself or the commercial entity in any email that you send out. The biggest opportunity for this to be an issue is in situations where a 3rd party is sending out messages on behalf of a person or company.

Unsubscribe Mechanism:

Again, this is something you really should have already been doing, but if not, an unsubscribe link is what we would consider to be a best practice and is generally embedded in commercially available software. The only stipulation that you may want to consider is that a link must be active for a minimum of 60 days.

If you don’t already have consent with your current contact list, you need to get it before July 1st. A message requesting opt-in consent, according to CASL it is seen as a CEM in itself. This means that an email of this nature after July 1st will be against the law!

So those are the facts and the details about the law as we understand them. We also recommend that you take a few minutes to review CASL and your marketing policies over the next couple weeks.

Having explained the law, we want to briefly come back to a comment made above about how this law can actually force you to improve your communication practices. A number of years ago, renowned business/marketing author, Seth Godin, wrote a book and a blog post called Permission Marketing in which he broadened the reach of a core tenet of successful marketing - namely, Permission Marketing, which "is the privilege (not the right) of delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them."

I would hope that the implications of "delivering anticipated, personal and relevant messages to people who actually want to get them", is crystal clear. If not, I'd encourage you to seek out a different career outside of marketing or advertising. But presuming it is clear, one of the first steps in developing that relationship online, is to ask people for 'permission' to send them messages. Sounds a LOT like CASL doesn't it?

And that's why we're fans of this legislation. It will: a) make it possible to prosecute those who abuse CEM's and b) effectively force organizations that send legitimate email to their audience(s) and have unwittingly overlooked permission marketing's benefits in the past, to engage in permission marketing.

So it's a win-win. But only if you get onside, on time.