Canada: Canada’s Anti-Spam Law

Last Updated: June 11 2014
Article by W. Michael G. Osborne and Matthew Gibson

Canada's new Anti- legislation, commonly known as "", establishes an "opt-in" regime by making it presumptively unlawful to send a commercial electronic message (CEM), unless the recipient has consented to receive it, and the sender includes certain information and an unsubscribe mechanism. applies to anyone who uses email for any commercial purpose. Violators face heavy sanctions, including fines up to $10 million, and private damages actions. Most of 's provisions come into force on July 1, 2014.

What is a commercial electronic message?

A "commercial electronic message" is defined broadly as any electronic message whose purpose is to encourage participation in a commercial activity. This includes messages about buying or selling a product or service, or that promote a business or investment, as well as messages promoting a person in relation to commercial activities, such as a professional newsletter. The definition of a CEM is not based on whether the messages are sent in bulk. Emails that are individually drafted and sent are caught by CASL.





Sending a CEM

Prohibited unless:

Consent from recipient
(express or implied)

CEM contains:
Sender information
Unsubscribe mechanism

OR Exception applies

$1 million AMP

$10 million AMP

Private actions

Seeking consent to send a CEM
Must discloses:
Purpose for obtaining consent
Requesting party information

Must include statement that
consent can be withdrawn

What is consent?

There are two kinds of consent to receive a CEM:

  • Express consent
  • Implied consent

Express consent

Express consent can be given orally or in writing. The person seeking consent must set out "clearly and simply":

  • The purpose for which the consent is being sought
  • The identity and contact information of the person seeking consent and of any person on whose behalf consent is sought
  • A statement that the person whose consent is sought can withdraw their consent.

Consent is frequently sought and obtained through check boxes on web pages that toggle from checked to unchecked. These boxes should default to the unchecked state. Because electronic messages seeking consent are deemed to be CEMs, express consent cannot be sought by email, unless there is implied consent, or one of the exceptions applies.

Implied consent

Implied consent arises from three main sources:

  • Existing business relationships: businesses can send emails to their customers. This implied consent expires after two years.
  • Existing non-business relationships: donations, volunteer work, and club memberships give rise to implied consent. This consent expires after two years.
  • Business cards and website contact information: consent is implied for people who have published their email addresses (for example, on a website), and for people who disclose their email address (for example, on a business card), unless the person includes a disclaimer that they do not wish to receive unsolicited commercial messages. This type of consent only applies if the CEMs are relevant to the person's business or job.

A transitional provision in CASL allows an initial three-year period before implied consents for existing business and non-business relationships expire. Implied consents arising from business cards and website contact information do not expire.

Information and contents that must be in CEMs

CASL requires that CEMs contain certain information, plus an unsubscribe mechanism. CEMs must contain information identifying the person or business sending the message, as well as their mailing address, and telephone number, email address or web address. If the message is sent by one person on behalf of another, the message must include the names of the person sending the message and of the person on whose behalf it is sent, but only the address of the person on whose behalf the message is sent. CASL also requires that every CEM have an unsubscribe mechanism that contains a link to an electronic address or web page allowing the recipient to unsubscribe from CEMs. The unsubscribe mechanism must be set out clearly and prominently, and must be able to be readily performed. Regulations made by the Canadian Radio-telephone and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) allow the sender information and unsubscribe mechanism to be posted on a web page, with a link in the message, when it is not possible to include this in the CEM itself, for example, on text messages.


CASL and the regulations made under CASL contain several sets of exceptions. The first set consists of a list of particular circumstances in which CEMs can be sent without the need to obtain consent, but where the sender information and unsubscribe mechanism may still be required, including:

  • A quote in response to a request
  • Confirmation of a transaction
  • Warranty and product recalls
  • Factual information regarding an ongoing purchase, subscription or membership
  • Information regarding updates or upgrades to services or products
  • Fund-raising by registered charities or political parties
  • One email following a referral, in limited circumstances.

Depending on the circumstances, some of the messages listed above may not be CEMs at all, and may thus be completely exempt from CASL. The second set consists of CEMs that are exempt both from the requirement to obtain consent and to include sender information and an unsubscribe mechanism in certain circumstances, including:

  • Inquiries to a person in a commercial activity (for example, an email from a consumer to a merchant)
  • Responses to requests, inquiries, or complaints (for example, the merchant's response to an email from a consumer)
  • CEMs sent to satisfy or enforce legal obligations or rights
  • Work-related CEMs among fellow employees, consultants, representatives, and franchisees
  • Messages sent on electronic messaging services that provide an unsubscribe function and where the person consents to receive the message expressly or by implication (this exception could cover social media, depending on their terms of service).

Finally, CASL exempts CEMs between family members and individuals who have a "personal relationship" from the consent, sender information, and unsubscribe requirements. Whether a "personal relationship" exists is based on a number of factors, including previous direct communication. Telephone calls, faxes, and "robocalls" are also exempted from CASL. They are regulated by the CRTC through its "Do Not Call List". Voicemails are also likely exempt.

Other Prohibited Conduct

CASL contains a number of other provisions that are beyond the scope of this summary:

  • CASL prohibits altering transmission data in an electronic message which results in the message being delivered to a different person
  • CASL prohibits the installation of computer programs without consent
  • CASL amended the Competition Act to address online false or misleading advertising
  • CASL amended Canada's privacy law to prohibit using web crawlers to harvest email addresses.

Enforcement and Penalties

The CRTC is responsible for enforcing CASL. The CRTC investigates, prosecutes, and adjudicates alleged violations of CASL. The CRTC can order telecommunication service providers to preserve data about CEMs. It can order anyone to produce any document, information or data, including private emails and text messages. The CRTC does not need to obtain prior judicial authorization before issuing a production order. The CRTC can also apply to a court for search warrants. If the CRTC determines that a violation has occurred, it can issue a notice of violation and impose an administrative monetary penalty (AMP) of up to $1 million on an individual and $10 million on a corporation, without holding a hearing. It is up to the alleged violator to challenge the decision by proving either that the recipient of the CEM consented (expressly or impliedly), or that it exercised due diligence to avoid committing the violation. Parties found to have violated CASL can appeal to the Federal Court of Appeal. Persons who are affected by violations of CASL can sue to recover actual damages, plus up to $200 for each contravention, to a maximum of $1 million per day on which a contravention occurred. This private right of action is also available in cases of violations of the online false advertising provisions added to the Competition Act by CASL. Private actions under CASL will almost certainly be structured as class actions. The private action provisions come into force on July 1, 2017.


All Canadian businesses need to ensure that they comply with CASL. They also need to retain evidence that they are in compliance, because CASL applies a reverse onus. Compliance systems may include the following elements:

  • Employee training
  • Systems to obtain and document express consent
  • Systems to track the type and scope of consents and when they expire or are revoked through an unsubscribe
  • Systems to ensure that CEMs are not sent except where consent exists.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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.

W. Michael G. Osborne
Matthew Gibson
Events from this Firm
4 Nov 2016, Seminar, Toronto, Canada

Michael Osborne will co-chair The Advocates’ Society’s new program Interviewing Skills: Gathering the Best Evidence for Your Case, on Friday, November 04, 2016.

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.