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Complying with the "World's Strictest" Anti-spam Law

The first part of Canada's new anti-spam law, CASL, came into effect at the start of July 2014. In the lead up to this time it seemed to be widely criticized and almost feared by businesses in Canada as being tantamount to a death knoll for online commerce. So when I saw that the Calgary Chamber of Commerce was hosting a presentation on CASL, given by Field Law, I jumped at the opportunity to learn more about it and what it means for Canadian businesses, especially from the perspective of independent translators who run their international business activities [mainly] from behind a computer. It turns out that CASL is not as worrisome as I had gathered it might be, and is actually intended to encourage the use of electronic means for conducting business.


CASL is built on three main pillars: consent, identification and unsubscription. Basically, if you are sending electronic communication to a contact in Canada, you need voluntary consent (opt-in, not opt-out) from the recipient prior to sending any electronic message with any sort of commercial content if you do not already have a relationship with that person that dates to within 2 years; you must be clearly identified; and your contact must be able to easily withdraw their consent or "unsubscribe" without any impact to their right or ability to receive a product or service.

Some of the requirements under these pillars are quite strict—after all, CASL is apparently the toughest anti-spam law in the world—and the overall tool is really very complex (e.g. implied vs. express consent). What's more, it seems that many details have yet to be ironed out.

However, there are still many actions you can take to comply at this stage:

  • Review contacts and mailing lists to figure out whether you need to obtain new consent from anyone.

  • Develop appropriate tools for requesting consent (consider webpages and hard copies; emails asking for consent are themselves considered spam!), and make sure you and any other direct or indirect senders are clearly identified and that the recipient is clearly and easily able to withdraw consent.

  • Make sure you only obtain consent using opt-in methods.

  • Make sure you are familiar with anti-spam laws of any foreign countries in which your clients are based.

  • Develop a system for maintaining very precise records of express consent.

  • Develop a system for precisely identifying and recording instances of implied consent (e.g. certain kinds of existing relationships, business cards).

  • Develop a system for granting unsubscription requests within 10 days.

  • Make sure the provision of services is not dependent on consent to receive electronic messages.

  • Keep precise records of all documents related to CASL compliance (e.g. electronic messaging policies and procedures, training documents, and unsubscribe requests and actions).

This is just a summary of my understanding of CASL and how to start working towards compliance as an independent translator based on the presentation I attended (more details are available in a full report I prepared for ATIA). It is by no means an exhaustive account, and in no way whatsoever to be construed as any sort of legal advice. But if you were concerned about CASL, I hope it quells some fears and makes compliance seem a little more attainable.

Please make sure to speak to an appropriate legal professional for any specific questions on compliance or actual legal counsel.

Other great resources and articles I've seen on the topic:



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