Emailing in Canada? CASL Compliance – Explained By Cari Birkner

by Colleen on September 28, 2011

You’ve been following CAN-SPAM for years, but are you prepared for CASL? The Canadian Anti-Spam Law was published by the CRTC (Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission) on June 30, and if strictly enforced, closes a major gap in email marketing regulation in the countries that make up the G8.

The passing of the new Canadian law, combined with broader crackdowns by the FTC bring compliance programs to the forefront again.

Key Sticking Points

While most aspects of CAN-SPAM still apply, there are several reasons you should pay attention to the Canadian legislation. For starters, it applies to any mail sent or received in Canada. This is especially important when mailing to a consumer using one of the big four providers who might move around a lot or access messages in Canada.

Also, if you work with partners and affiliates who send on your behalf, you need to be mindful of their traffic sources as well as the location of all mail servers.

Secondly, the law allows for private right of action, meaning an individual can sue companies based on CASL violations, whereas CAN-SPAM restricts legal action to ISPs, state Attorney Generals and the FTC.

Retaining a general counsel and compliance department well versed in cross-border and state specific regulations would serve any ad network well. A fair amount of case law in California provides noteworthy examples of individuals acting as ISPs in order to sue under CAN-SPAM and state specific laws.

List ”rental” is still alive and well with CASL, but there are some serious caveats. For example, actual email addresses are never to be shared with partners. Ads can, however, be mailed on behalf of an advertiser by list owners who have express permission to send third party offers. While CAN-SPAM does not require consumers to opt in, it does require sharing of suppression files.

Therefore, operating in an environment with both US and Canadian customers necessitates secure scrubbing and encryption of suppression files.

As with CAN-SPAM, CASL -compliant email messages require a working option to unsubscribe, a relevant subject line, and a valid physical postal address. They must not conceal the sender or intend to deceive the recipient. Keeping your entire marketing team up to date on new laws, auditing and monitoring your sending practices will go a long way to maintaining compliance.

CASL Resources:
The published law can be found at the CRTC’s website: ThinData offers an excellent free resource entitled: The Marketer’s Guide to Applying CASL: How to Leverage Canada’s Newest Internet Law, which can be found at:

Note: The author is not a lawyer and this article should not be construed as legal advice.

Cari Birkner is Director of Marketing at LashBack, and a contributor to

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