Canada: Top Ten Things You Need To Know About Canada's Anti-Spam Law

Last Updated: December 3 2013
Article by Sharon E. Groom, David Young and Amrita Mann

On December 15, 2010, the Canada's Parliament passed Bill C-28 which is Canada's anti-spam law ("CASL"). Despite becoming law nearly 3 years ago, it is likely not to come into force for at least another year, since the regulations intended to give the new regime operational detail have been in flux since the first draft regulations were made public in 2011 and CASL will not be proclaimed to be in force until such regulations are finalized. Industry Canada is expected to release revised regulations by mid-December 2013. Following the finalization of those regulations CASL will be proclaimed, coming into force sometime in 2014.

Here are the top ten things you need to know about CASL:

1. CASL's Threshold Is Very Low: The basic prohibition contained in CASL is against sending a "commercial electronic message" , which includes all forms of electronic communication including e-mails, texts and instant messages as long as they encourage participation in a commercial activity, to customers, donors, members and others unless the recipient has consented to receiving the message.

2. The Sweep of CASL Is Very Broad: Although CASL was conceived initially as a weapon to fight "spam", its application extends to all businesses and non-profit organizations, regardless of whether the commercial electronic message sent by those organizations would ordinarily be considered "spam".

3. Mandatory Content Will Be Prescribed: A compliant commercial electronic message must contain certain prescribed information, including the identity of the sender, the sender's contact information and a readily-usable "unsubscribe" mechanism which must remain operative for 60 days from the date of the message. An unsubscribe request must be acted on within 10 days of it being made by a recipient.<//p>

4. Mandatory Consent Requirements Will be Imposed: Consent from the recipient of the commercial electronic message must be express consent given on an opt-in basis. That is, consent cannot be implied or "read in" and recipients must actively give consent. Moreover, the request for consent must clearly set out the purposes for which it is being requested and identify the requestor in the prescribed manner.

5. Certain Communications Will be Exempt from CASL: Certain communications are exempt from the content and consent requirements of CASL:

a. commercial electronic messages within a business sent by an employee, representative, contractor or franchisee of the organization and that concerns the affairs of the organization;

b. commercial electronic messages between businesses that have an ongoing business relationship, and that are sent by employees, representatives, contractors or franchisees of the organizations concerning the affairs of the organizations or the person's role;

c. commercial electronic messages from friends or family;

d. commercial electronic messages to a business where it is an inquiry or application related to that business;

e. commercial electronic messages from a business responding to inquiries, requests, complaints or other solicitations;

f. commercial electronic messages that are sent to satisfy a legal or juridical obligation.

g. In addition, there is a one-time exemption for a commercial electronic message sent to someone to whom the sender has been referred by a friend or business relation of the recipient, although such a communication still has to comply with the content requirements.

6Certain Communications Will be Deemed to Have Received Implied Consent: Certain other communications are deemed by CASL to have been consented to by their recipients so only need comply with the prescribed content requirements:

a. commercial electronic messages where the parties have an existing business or non-business relationship that has been active in the last 2 years;

b. commercial electronic messages where the sender has received an inquiry or application within the last 6 months from the recipient in respect of a potential transaction or other defined business or non-business opportunity (this differs from the case of communications noted at paragraph 5(e) above in that the sender can send further commercial electronic messages past the original inquiry if it is within the 6 month period described);

c. commercial electronic messages where the recipient has provided or published his or her electronic address without any restriction, and the message relates to the person's job or business.

7. Non-profits Will Be Challenged to Distinguish "Commercial" and Non-Commercial Communications: The challenge for non-profit organizations will be to separate the communications that have no "commercial" purpose from those that do and therefore must comply with the CASL. An e-mail communication will qualify as a commercial electronic message if any of its purposes encourages participation in a commercial activity, whether or not there is an expectation of profit. For example, a donation request which refers to the use of a web service facility which charges a fee, such as PayPal or Canada Helps, will likely be subject to the CASL. Even a donation request e-mail that does not refer to such a facility may well constitute a commercial electronic message as it is soliciting funds.

8. Express Opt-in Consents Will be Necessary: Most organizations that currently maintain e-mail contact lists that are compliant with the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act ("PIPEDA") - will find that those lists do not qualify under CASL for lack of appropriate consent. As a result, they will need to be re-qualified by fresh, opt-in consents.

9. Maintenance Obligations Respecting Your E-mail Lists Will Increase: Organizations that maintain e-mail contact lists will need to remove names from the list at the 2 year-post transaction or 6 month post-inquiry point, unless express consent has also been obtained from recipients. However, as a transition measure, CASL eliminates this requirement for a period of 3 years after the Act comes into effect in respect of only those e-mail communications that fall under the category of "implied consent" (see paragraph 6 above).

10. It Will Pay to be Prepared: Organizations that want to get a head start on compliance with CASL should consider obtaining express consent from those persons currently on their lists, as sending e-mails to such people after the legislation is in force may violate its provisions if the commercial electronic message is not exempt, or the recipients have not provided implied consent.


CASL will impose unanticipated, often cumbersome and expensive requirements on virtually every business and non-profit organization active in Canada. The rules, while still not finalized, are complex and will be open to interpretation in many gray areas. Lawyers at McMillan LLP have been involved with the CASL regime since its inception, are very familiar with its ins and outs and would be pleased to assist your organization in managing its compliance with CASL.

The foregoing provides only an overview. Readers are cautioned against making any decisions based on this material alone. Rather, a qualified lawyer should be consulted.

© Copyright 2013 McMillan LLP

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

Sharon E. Groom
Amrita Mann
In association with
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Check to state you have read and
agree to our Terms and Conditions

Terms & Conditions and Privacy Statement (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd and as a user you are granted a non-exclusive, revocable license to access the Website under its terms and conditions of use. Your use of the Website constitutes your agreement to the following terms and conditions of use. Mondaq Ltd may terminate your use of the Website if you are in breach of these terms and conditions or if Mondaq Ltd decides to terminate your license of use for whatever reason.

Use of

You may use the Website but are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the content and articles available (the Content). You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these terms & conditions or with the prior written consent of Mondaq Ltd. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information about’s content, users or contributors in order to offer them any services or products which compete directly or indirectly with Mondaq Ltd’s services and products.


Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the documents and related graphics published on this server for any purpose. All such documents and related graphics are provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers hereby disclaim all warranties and conditions with regard to this information, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use or performance of information available from this server.

The documents and related graphics published on this server could include technical inaccuracies or typographical errors. Changes are periodically added to the information herein. Mondaq Ltd and/or its respective suppliers may make improvements and/or changes in the product(s) and/or the program(s) described herein at any time.


Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including what sort of information you are interested in, for three primary purposes:

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, newsletter alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our information providers who provide information free for your use.

Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) do not sell or provide your details to third parties other than information providers. The reason we provide our information providers with this information is so that they can measure the response their articles are receiving and provide you with information about their products and services.

If you do not want us to provide your name and email address you may opt out by clicking here .

If you do not wish to receive any future announcements of products and services offered by Mondaq by clicking here .

Information Collection and Use

We require site users to register with Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to view the free information on the site. We also collect information from our users at several different points on the websites: this is so that we can customise the sites according to individual usage, provide 'session-aware' functionality, and ensure that content is acquired and developed appropriately. This gives us an overall picture of our user profiles, which in turn shows to our Editorial Contributors the type of person they are reaching by posting articles on Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) – meaning more free content for registered users.

We are only able to provide the material on the Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) site free to site visitors because we can pass on information about the pages that users are viewing and the personal information users provide to us (e.g. email addresses) to reputable contributing firms such as law firms who author those pages. We do not sell or rent information to anyone else other than the authors of those pages, who may change from time to time. Should you wish us not to disclose your details to any of these parties, please tick the box above or tick the box marked "Opt out of Registration Information Disclosure" on the Your Profile page. We and our author organisations may only contact you via email or other means if you allow us to do so. Users can opt out of contact when they register on the site, or send an email to with “no disclosure” in the subject heading

Mondaq News Alerts

In order to receive Mondaq News Alerts, users have to complete a separate registration form. This is a personalised service where users choose regions and topics of interest and we send it only to those users who have requested it. Users can stop receiving these Alerts by going to the Mondaq News Alerts page and deselecting all interest areas. In the same way users can amend their personal preferences to add or remove subject areas.


A cookie is a small text file written to a user’s hard drive that contains an identifying user number. The cookies do not contain any personal information about users. We use the cookie so users do not have to log in every time they use the service and the cookie will automatically expire if you do not visit the Mondaq website (or its affiliate sites) for 12 months. We also use the cookie to personalise a user's experience of the site (for example to show information specific to a user's region). As the Mondaq sites are fully personalised and cookies are essential to its core technology the site will function unpredictably with browsers that do not support cookies - or where cookies are disabled (in these circumstances we advise you to attempt to locate the information you require elsewhere on the web). However if you are concerned about the presence of a Mondaq cookie on your machine you can also choose to expire the cookie immediately (remove it) by selecting the 'Log Off' menu option as the last thing you do when you use the site.

Some of our business partners may use cookies on our site (for example, advertisers). However, we have no access to or control over these cookies and we are not aware of any at present that do so.

Log Files

We use IP addresses to analyse trends, administer the site, track movement, and gather broad demographic information for aggregate use. IP addresses are not linked to personally identifiable information.


This web site contains links to other sites. Please be aware that Mondaq (or its affiliate sites) are not responsible for the privacy practices of such other sites. We encourage our users to be aware when they leave our site and to read the privacy statements of these third party sites. This privacy statement applies solely to information collected by this Web site.

Surveys & Contests

From time-to-time our site requests information from users via surveys or contests. Participation in these surveys or contests is completely voluntary and the user therefore has a choice whether or not to disclose any information requested. Information requested may include contact information (such as name and delivery address), and demographic information (such as postcode, age level). Contact information will be used to notify the winners and award prizes. Survey information will be used for purposes of monitoring or improving the functionality of the site.


If a user elects to use our referral service for informing a friend about our site, we ask them for the friend’s name and email address. Mondaq stores this information and may contact the friend to invite them to register with Mondaq, but they will not be contacted more than once. The friend may contact Mondaq to request the removal of this information from our database.


This website takes every reasonable precaution to protect our users’ information. When users submit sensitive information via the website, your information is protected using firewalls and other security technology. If you have any questions about the security at our website, you can send an email to

Correcting/Updating Personal Information

If a user’s personally identifiable information changes (such as postcode), or if a user no longer desires our service, we will endeavour to provide a way to correct, update or remove that user’s personal data provided to us. This can usually be done at the “Your Profile” page or by sending an email to

Notification of Changes

If we decide to change our Terms & Conditions or Privacy Policy, we will post those changes on our site so our users are always aware of what information we collect, how we use it, and under what circumstances, if any, we disclose it. If at any point we decide to use personally identifiable information in a manner different from that stated at the time it was collected, we will notify users by way of an email. Users will have a choice as to whether or not we use their information in this different manner. We will use information in accordance with the privacy policy under which the information was collected.

How to contact Mondaq

You can contact us with comments or queries at

If for some reason you believe Mondaq Ltd. has not adhered to these principles, please notify us by e-mail at and we will use commercially reasonable efforts to determine and correct the problem promptly.