Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL): What Does It Mean For You?


In December of 2010, Canada’s government passed the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL), designed to regulate specific areas of electronic commerce including what are known as Commercial Electronic Messages. Abbreviated CEMs, this term encompasses SMS messaging, social media messaging, and email communications. The enforcement date has been set, and it’s July 1, 2014. After reading this blog post, feel free to download The Email Marketer’s Ultimate Checklist for Canada’s Anti-Spam Law Update.

In preparation for the enforcement date, we want to help explain some of the key points of the CASL and how it affects email senders. It’s important to note that these restrictions may change slightly before the enforcement date, but any major modifications are unlikely.


For an email marketer, the key tenet of CASL is the consent requirement. CASL prohibits senders from mailing anyone who has not explicitly requested that mailing. The consent must be affirmative – this means that a pre-checked box in a checkout process or on a registration page is NOT considered consent.

In all cases, if there is any question as to whether consent was provided, the burden of proof lies with the sender. This means that if you obtain consent to email a recipient, you must have records to back it up or you may be subject to penalties under the law.

For the first 3 years from the enforcement date, there will be an exception for senders who have an existing relationship with the email recipient. This includes both business (purchase history, site registration) and non-business (non-profit group membership) relationships. This exception is only valid if the recipient has not opted out or requested not to receive mailings. During that exception period, the sender must ask for, and receive, permission to continue sending mailings after the 3 years has passed.


CASL requires clear identification of the sender of any electronic message as well as any other party involved in message transmission. An Email Service Provider (ESP), like WhatCounts, would not need to be identified if they do not determine to whom the message is sent. However, if the mailing is sent on behalf of one or more affiliates, the identity of each affiliate must be included in the message.

Each message must also include the sender’s valid postal mailing address (PO Box is acceptable), and the address must remain valid for at least 60 days after the date of the mailing.

Unsubscribe Method

Much like the CAN-SPAM Act in the United States, CASL requires each message to contain an unsubscribe method that is clear, prominent, and able to be “readily performed.” While this language is a bit vague, it indicates that the unsubscribe process must be consumer-friendly, easy to access, and “without delay.” WhatCounts’ automated Unsubscribe process meets and exceeds these requirements today.

CASL for Non-Canadian Senders

While CASL applies to all email sent from or accessed in Canada, the law does include an exception for senders who are not based in Canada and have no reasonable expectation their email would be accessed in Canada.

If you are following opt-in email best practices, you’re already prepared for compliance with the CASL. If you have questions, or are not sure how you can improve your practices, the WhatCounts team is always ready to help. For further assistance, you can contact your Technical Account Manager or email

Brad Gurley
Director of Deliverability, WhatCounts


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