In the US and Canada, anti-spam laws have been put in place to protect consumers from unsolicited, unwanted, or misleading emails, and non-compliance can result in hefty penalties. These laws are not limited to questionable advertising and adult-themed messages, as you might think. CAN-SPAM (the U.S. anti-spam law) applies to “any electronic mail message, the primary purpose of which is the commercial advertisement or promotion of a commercial product or service.” It applies not only to your lead generation emails, but it also applies to your newsletters, product updates, and nearly every email you send. What’s not covered are transactional or relationship messages, such as receipts or alerts about service expirations.
So how can a responsible marketer or sales rep stay on the good side of the law? Here’s a quick primer on the federal laws for both the US and Canada.
CAN-SPAM for the US
CAN-SPAM has been in effect for over a decade and operates on an opt-out (vs. Canada’s opt-in) model for permissions. CAN-SPAM requires much less effort to comply with, however, it only applies to emails sent within, or to recipients in the United States. The key requirements of the law are: 1) clearly state your business’s location, 2) avoid deceptive header and subject line information, and 3) offer a way for recipients to unsubscribe.
The CAN-SPAM Act requires the Commission to issue regulations “defining the relevant criteria to facilitate the determination of the primary purpose of an electronic mail message.” The CAN-SPAM Act applies almost exclusively to “commercial electronic mail messages”.
CASL for Canada
Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL) is the federal law dealing with spam and other electronic threats. It is meant to protect Canadians while ensuring that businesses can continue to compete in the global marketplace.
The Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) shares responsibility for enforcing CASL with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the federal Competition Bureau.
When CASL came into force, it introduced a number of changes to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA). Explore the links on this page to learn more about the OPC’s responsibilities under CASL.
For full details on CASL and the roles of our partners, visit the “fightspam.gc.ca” website.
If you are looking for information about how to deal with or prevent spam see our Spam topic page.
Anti-Spam Laws at a Glance
|Acronym Meaning||Controlling the Assault of Non- Solicited Pornography and Marketing||Canada’s Anti-Spam Law|
|Acceptable Permission||Opt-out: Send an email and remove from the list if recipient unsubscribes||Opt-in: Get permission before sending emails.
|Effective Date||December 2003||July 1, 2014, with a noncompliance grace period until July 1, 2017, at which time enforcement will begin.|
|Media Covered||Email, SMS, Social Media|
|Applies To||Recipients in the US||Recipients in Canada|
|Enforcers||Federal Trade Commission (FTC)||Canadian RadioTelevision Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Competition Bureau.|
|Best Practices Guide||“CAN-SPAM Compliance: Breaking it Down,” from SendGrid https://sendgrid.com/blog/can-spam-compliance-breaking/||
“Manage the Message,” from Deloitte https://www2.deloitte.com/content/dam/Deloitte/ca/Documents/risk/ca-en-ers-spr-canada-anti-spam.pdf
Click here to understand how these regulations apply to email addresses provided by InsideView.