How Will Canada’s Anti-Spam Law 2014 Affect the Exchange of “Marcom” Services?

Today’s blog is a note to clients and prospects:

What is Canada’s New Anti-Spam Law (2014)?

After being passed into law in December, 2010, Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (or CASL, pronounced “Castle”) will take effect on July 1st, 2014, restricting the electronic sending of marketing or promotional messages from service providers to prospects.  Months ago, when I last blogged about the legislation, few in my social media groups were concerned enough to discuss it.

But more recently that has changed. Social Media correspondence and informational copy provided by local marketers in Saskatoon and by the Canadian Public Relations Society (CPRS) (to name just one) have clarified some of the implications of the legislation.  What follows are the highlights as presented by lawyer Bill Hearn (Davis LLP) in written communication to the CPRS:

For clients and prospects who may wonder how communications freelancers like me can comply with CASL and what changes it may bring to our services, please read on  . . . .

What Practices are Affected by CASL?

First, not only Direct Mail marketers but all communications’ and media-relations professionals will have to follow strict rules intended to eliminate the number of unsolicited electronic messages that are currently being sent by and to us. “Electronic messages” include email, social media messages, text messages sent by mobile phones and instant messages.

Violations cost individuals and organizations public reputation and huge fines: $1Million for individuals and $10 Million for any other legal entity (such as a corporation). Beginning in July 1, 2017, individuals have the right to take action against companies contravening CASL, with fines up to a maximum of $1 Million per day that the contravention occurs. Stiff prohibitions!

I won’t be cold-emailing or using direct contact functions in LinkedIn, for instance, or on other social media platforms. After researching various companies or organizations, I will still use cold-calling and surface mail introductory letters. But more and more, word-of-mouth referrals will be essential. They have long been freelancers’ preferred choice for securing clients.

What Content is Affected and to Whom Does CASL Apply?

CASL applies to bloggers and writers of any field, like me, who offer or promote a business opportunity, and/or promote a person who will provide a service.

What Constitutes Consent or Permission for Sending Promotional Messages?

Commercial Electronic Messages (CEMs) sent to any recipient without his/her prior expressed or implied consent (permission) are prohibited.  A CEM is defined as encouraging participation in any kind of commercial activity, regardless of whether any profit is expected.

Consent to receive a CEM may be implied, in the following cases:

  • the recipient has conspicuously published their electronic address
  • the publication is not accompanied with a statement that the recipient doesn’t want to receive unsolicited CEMs at that address


  • if the message is relevant to the person’s business, role, or duties in a business or official capacity

Will Social Media be Affected?

Yes, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook and other social media messages are subject to this law.

An Electronic Message Service like Twitter (EMS) may only be exempt from standards of content and consent,  (i) if the sender’s ID information and unsubscribe mechanism are conspicuously published and easily available on the network where the message is found and gained access to; and (ii) if the recipient consents to receive it, either expressly or by implication (e.g. an exchange of business cards, a phone call that precedes the electronic message and conveys permission to send it.).

In his discussion with the CPRS, Bill Hearn adds that Twitter’s “Block,” “Following,” “Report Tweet as Spam” functions satisfy CASL’s standard of being (i) “conspicuously published” in content and readily available as means for exception. Therefore, whether contact by Twitter violates CASL will depend on (ii), the EMS’ exception, as to whether the contact is a “cold” pitch or whether the recipient implied his/her consent.

Despite these exemptions, reckless (once-thought casual) social media communication by any party to another, over business (e.g. lead generation and conversion), will have to stop.

The unsubscribe mechanism must follow these requirements:

  • the writer/marketer must honour the “unsubscribe” command within 10 business days of it being sent by the recipient
  • the “unsubscribe” mechanism  should not cost the recipient anything
  • the “unsubscribe” mechanism should remain functioning for 60 days after the request was sent
  • it should enable the recipient to indicate the wish to stop receiving any CEMs from the sender
  • it should be sent via the same electronic means by which the CEM was sent, or by another electronic method
  • it should specify an electronic address or link to a webpage that can be accessed through a web browser, to which the “unsubscribe” request may be sent.


The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) is the main enforcer for CASL (for administrative monetary penalties). But the Competition Bureau (that addresses false CEMs) and the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (that addresses phishing and e-address harvesting) also enforce the tenets of this new law.

On January 15, 2015, sections of the act pertaining to unsolicited installation of computer programs or software will take force.

For the past two or three years, lawyers like Bill Hearn across Canada have been offering workshops explaining CASL to communications’ specialists.  Prospects and not only service providers need to be aware of the law and its implications.

The following websites have been helpful to me, as a service provider:  and (fast facts)

How will the CASL affect your marketing and communications’ goals, as we move forward?

Plenty of local entrepreneurs have expressed that they find CASL excessively prohibitive. But if you receive communications and marketing services from an agency or freelancer, you must be aware of this law and its implications. It’s up to you, as well as to your service provider, to be informed of these rules and to ensure that your “marcom” activities do not contravene them.


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