What Does Canada's New Anti-Spam Legislation Mean For You?Canada’s new anti-spam legislation (CASL) was passed in 2010 and is set to come into force on July 1, 2014. CASL will require most organizations to obtain consent before sending out commercial electronic messages (CEMs), which includes emails, text-messages and other forms of electronic communication. The purpose of CASL is to help Canadians avoid spam and other electronic threats. CASL will officially establish the world’s most rigorous standards for sending CEMs – this means that most organizations and businesses will need to quickly mobilize their resources to avoid liability under the new law. But what does CASL mean for you?

Most Canadians have to deal with spam on a regular basis. Spam refers to those annoying messages that somehow make it through whichever firewall or protection you may have in place and clog your inbox with suspicious products or get-rich-quick schemes. CASL was passed with the goal of protecting Canadians against the growing epidemic of spam. For the most part, it appears that CASL will achieve this goal. However, the scope of CASL may be too broad. A commercial electronic message is any communication that has at least one purpose of encouraging participation in a commercial activity. This means that any emails that solicit business or convey information of a commercial character will be caught under CASL. While I certainly won’t miss advertisements encouraging me to buy pills that offer certain physical enhancements, I don’t want important business messages from organizations I care about to get caught in the crossfire.

In order for organizations and businesses to comply with CASL, they will need to obtain consent from all recipients before July 1, 2014. Here’s what you need to do: in the next few months, look out for emails requesting consent from businesses or organizations that you wish to remain in communication with. Make sure that you reply to these emails and give consent, in order to enable the organization to continue sending you CEMs after CASL comes into force. If you don’t give consent before July, these messages will cease to arrive in your inbox. The paradox of CASL is that, once the legislation comes into force, it will be illegal to send a commercial message to another person requesting consent where there isn’t an existing relationship, because the request constitutes a commercial message. It is also important to know that CASL allows Canadians to withdraw their consent at any time. That means that, if you consent to receiving CEMs before July, you can subsequently revoke your consent at any time, and the organization or business will be legally required to remove your name from their distribution list.

Canada’s new anti-spam law will become a new reality of commercial life in Canada. It will change the way our inboxes look and likely reduce the amount of unwanted and irrelevant emails we get on a day-to-day basis. However, in the next few months it will be important for Canadians to ensure that they provide consent to businesses or organizations who they wish to remain in communication with, in order to stay in the loop.