Understanding US and Canadian Anti-spam Laws


In the US and Canada, anti-spam laws have been put in place to protect consumers from unsolicited, unwanted or misleading email, 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, 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.

CASL for Canada

CASL is “Canada’s Anti-Spam Law” and was designed around consent. According to the new law, which is currently in a grace period and won’t be enforced until 2017, Canadian and global organizations that send commercial electronic messages within, from or to Canada need the permission of their recipients before they can send email. That means, before you send a commercial email to anyone in Canada, that individual must have chosen to receive the email from you.  

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 email and remove from list if recipient unsubscribes Opt-in: Get permission before sending email


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 Email, SMS, Social Media
Applies To Recipients in the US Recipients in Canada
Regulatory Website http://business.ftc.gov/documents/bus61-can-spam-act-compliance-guide-business http://fightspam.gc.ca/eic/site/030.nsf/eng/home
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. 

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