Ten years after the CAN-SPAM Act went into effect in the U.S., on July 1, 2014, the Canadian Anti-Spam Law goes into effect which forbids almost all unsolicited commercial electronic messages. Unlike the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act that allows for opt-out the CASL is an opt-in for consumers, and affects U.S. companies who communicate with citizens in Canada.

The CASL specifically:

  • prohibits the sending of commercial electronic messages without the prior consent of the recipient and provides rules governing the sending of those types of messages, including a mechanism for the withdrawal of consent.
  • prohibits other practices that discourage reliance on electronic means of carrying out commercial activities, such as those relating to the alteration of data transmissions and the unauthorized installation of computer programs.
  • provides for the imposition of administrative monetary penalties.
  • provides for a private right of action that enables a person affected by an act or omission that constitutes a contravention under that Act to obtain an amount equal to the actual amount of the loss or damage suffered, or expenses incurred, and statutory damages for the contravention.

CASL defines “commercial activity:”

…means any particular transaction, act or conduct or any regular course of conduct that is of a commercial character, whether or not the person who carries it out does so in the expectation of profit, other than any transaction, act or conduct that is carried out for the purposes of law enforcement, public safety, the protection of Canada, the conduct of international affairs or the defense of Canada.

Further, CASL is not limited to email since CASL defines “electronic address” means an address used in connection with the transmission of an electronic message to:

  1. an electronic mail account;
  2. an instant messaging account;
  3. a telephone account; or
  4. any similar account.

Generally the CASL will have a negative impact on many businesses which rely on electronic marketing to Canada.