Login Enterprise
Speak to an Email Marketing Expert
877-789-ELITE (3548)


With the one year anniversary of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL) almost here, there’s plenty of questions floating around in the email marketing community. Did CASL work, or is spam still a problem? Should I still be worried about any compliance issues? What’s the next step in the fight against spam? To help you sift through this conversation and learn more about the past, present, and future of Canada’s fight against spam email marketing practices, let’s take a minute to check in on the status of CASL and its position in the current marketplace.

Delving into the Impact of CASL on Spammers

Now that we have almost a year’s worth of data on the books, it’s only logical for the discussion to turn to the raw effectiveness of the anti-spam strategy. According to the experts over at the SPAMfighter blog, the answer to this question falls firmly into the “success” designation. After the law went live on July 1st, 2014, spam originating in Canada fell an astounding 37 percent. Even more impressive is the fact that this number continues to dip as more and more offenders are brought to justice or change to more transparent and acceptable tactics.

Unfortunately, CASL still hasn’t alleviated all of the issues related to spam emails. As the team at SPAMfighter go on to explain, inbound spam from Russia, the United States, and other foreign locations continue to be an issue. However, regulators and officials continue to seek out punishment for those abroad, potentially setting a new precedent for handling international spam complaints that affect consumers here in Canada.

What about Those on the Right Side of the Law?

Of course with such a harsh crackdown on spammers serving as the leading image of the CASL movement, it makes sense to assume that properly handling email campaigns has also become a more demanding affair. Thankfully, IT World Canada’s Jeff Jedras offers up some research that dispels this myth and helps prove that generating buzz in the inbox under CASL guidelines is still a viable strategy.

Specifically, Jedras notes that over 70 percent of Canadian small organizations have continued on with business as usual, and at least nine percent have increased their operations during this year-long period of CASL application. Even list sizes have remained largely unchanged as consumers continue to have access to consistent opt-out opportunities.

The moral of the story here is clear; if you play by the rules, CASL and its enforcers have no need to step in and stop you and your audience from reaping the rewards of this mutually beneficial relationship.

Making a Better Inbox Experience for Consumers

As for the person on the other side of the screen, Elyse Dupre of Direct Marketing News points out that there’s never been a better time for Canadian consumers in the inbox. Despite the concerns faced by brands and marketers over the implementation of CASL compliance, the average Canadian shopper has hardly noticed a change in the email marketing process or their desire to continue receiving this kind of content.

With the average viewer spending about 1.2 hours in their inbox a day – and 68 percent of all shoppers listing email offers as their favorite form of outreach – it’s safe to say that CASL has done little to damage the relationship between eager members of the contact list and the participating brand. In fact, it wouldn’t be all that much of a surprise if the continued drop in spam offenders helps push the demand for authentic, valuable email offers to newer and greater heights.

Keep Your Brand on Track for Email Marketing Success

So now that you’re all caught up on the current status of CASL, what’s next for your brand? The answer to this question revolves around your goals and aspirations for the future. Are you interested in expanding your email operations and reaching out to new audiences? What if this is your first time reading about email marketing and you’re looking to capture sales that would otherwise go unrealized? Regardless of where you currently fit into the process, it’s safe to say that as long as you play by the rules, there’s nothing that can stop your brand from truly making a mark in the inbox with effective and sound email content.

If you’d like to learn more about CASL compliance and advice for staying on the right side of this law, feel free to check out our CASL Survival Guide, expert analysis from our CEO, Robert Burko, and additional coverage.



Back on April Fool’s Day, our friends to the south had quite the commotion arise around the purported inclusion of an email tax to their current tax code. While this article was nothing more than another digital gag on a day full of such fun and silly offerings, it did bring up quite an intriguing question – should email transmissions actually be taxed by legislative bodies around the world? To answer this question, let’s take a look at the original article, the industry response, and what would actually happen to brands like your own if emails – both marketed and personal – fell under the umbrella of taxation.

The Source of the Commotion

As part of her long line of fun April Fool’s Day posts, Kelly Phillips Erb of Forbes magazine tackled the faux subject of an email tax; something that undoubtedly strikes fear into the heart of any organization or individual that makes a living via inbox operations and outreach. Specifically, the article suggests that the U.S. Congress would be willing to repeal the Internet Tax Freedom Act (ITFA) and place a small transactional cost upon each message set to domains residing within the States. Naturally, governmental domains and similarly linked addresses would be exempt from the new tax, with the proceeds generated by this process going toward a renewed effort to pay down the U.S. budget deficit.

Gauging the Impact of an Email Tax

For the sake of fun and curiosity, let’s suspend our disbelief and spend a minute breaking down the math surrounding this kind of development. Assuming that this theoretical act would cause a domino effect here and abroad in response to the actions of the U.S. congress, the burden generated by even a minimal tax would be astronomical.

To prove this point, simply look at the raw number of messages sent every day. As Business 2 Community’s Lisa Cannon points out, this figure currently sits at about 122,500,453,020 messages sent – per hour. If the average tax burden on individual messages averaged out to around one cent globally, then governments around the world rack up over $1.2 billion in tax revenue per hour. Naturally, this is an astounding figure and far from an exact representation of what an email tax would shape up to be, but it helps illustrate the point very clearly – taxing what comes and goes from inboxes around the world is the very definition of big business.

Understanding the Industry Response

According to Chad White of Media Post, this scenario is scary, unrealistic, and entirely unnecessary due to the de facto email tax currently imposed on marketers and brands by consumers. While White’s tax doesn’t take on the form of a monetary burden, it represents the gap between the value of the viewer’s time and the value of the content held within the message in question.

Essentially, if you’re sending low-value, high filler content to your audience, it’s only a matter of time before the “consumer tax” – spam complaints, low open rates, and poor feedback – bankrupt your email operations. It might not be readily apparent, but under White’s understanding of the current inbox landscape, this self-taxation system helps ensure that spam offerings fall out of favor fast and email content continues to enhance and enrich the person on the other side of the screen.

Is This Something to Worry about?

At this point, it’s okay to take a step back and enjoy the idea of an email tax exactly as it was meant to be; a fun, industry joke. Sure, there’s always some outside chance that emails could eventually come under a specified tax system here or abroad, but that day isn’t even close to being on the horizon.

While the old days of the Internet “Wild West” might have benefited from such a system, the modern digital world offers much more incentive to avoid spamming consumers as part of the built-in inbox economy. Does spam still exist? Sure. But the number of illicit senders continues to plummet as more and more brands offer up relevant, value-driven offerings to email viewers. Adding in the continued push for net neutrality and a “free web” ideal doesn’t hurt either.

For now, you’re much better off worrying about avoiding White’s consumer-based tax by employing industry best practices and content tactics. This way, even if the absolutely unlikely happens and we see an email tax at some point far in the future, you’ll still have a huge impact in the inbox once you make your way through whatever minor tolls pop up.



With a population tipping slightly over 65,000, the quiet island of Guernsey – located in the heart of the English Channel – doesn’t often do enough to warrant making international headlines, even on the slowest of news days. However, if you’ve been keeping up with the latest stirrings in the world of email marketing, you know that the tourism board of Guernsey has found itself in some hot water regarding spam allegations. To find out what really happened with the VisitGuernsey domain, as well as what this continued hard stance on spam backlash means for your brand going forward, let’s delve into the particulars of this breaking story from a variety of different angles.

Breaking down the Claims Against VisitGuernsey

According to the reporting team over at BBC News, the allegations against the VisitGuernsey domain, and thus the Guernsey Commerce and Employment Department as well, all stem from an investigation led by international anti-spam company Spamhaus. Essentially, this regulatory agency claims that the organization in question operates a “spam trap” address and floods unsuspecting inboxes with an illicit amount of unsolicited junk emails.

After reaching out to the operators of the VisitGuernsey address with a request to cease these potentially unsavory operations, Spamhaus has now taken its complaints to governmental bodies and enforcement organizations on both sides of the Atlantic. Should these claims turn into hard evidence, it’s safe to say that the penalties and negative press generated by this development will impact VisitGuernsey’s domain credibility – and bottom line – in a major way.

The Official Response

After reading all of that, it’s hard not to take on a grim outlook regarding the fortunes of this potential spam violator. However, this doesn’t mean the VisitGuernsey site and its operators are going down without a fight. As John McCarthy of The Drum explains, the team that represents the island of Guernsey and its inbox campaigns insists that they’ve done nothing wrong in terms of email marketing best practices and the usage of spam tactics. Specifically, Emma Martins – the Data Protection Commissioner for Guernsey – has gone on record to claim that no one who received emails from this domain did so without express consent or the ability to opt out at any point in the process.

An Intriguing History

Of course, perhaps the most intriguing part of this growing email marketing soap opera is the fact that Guernsey was once known as a bastion of anti-spam awareness. In another report from the experts at BBC News, this time dating back to January of 2006, we learn of the story of Nigel Roberts and his crusade against spam operations.

After winning a legal case against a British media firm that sent him daily spam messages, this Guernsey businessman set up a reporting site, Spam Legal Action, that’s designed to provide frustrated consumers with an outlet for bringing spammers and other shady organizations to justice. Considering that Spamhaus was directly involved in the formation of Roberts’ site, there’s naturally a lot of intrigue surrounding this complicated story of a once strong player in the anti-spam world potentially being led astray and losing sight of how to properly connect with customers in the inbox.

Looking Toward the Future

Regardless of whether or not the people behind Guernsey’s email marketing operations end up taking on penalties, fines, and all other manner of punishments, there’s one important lesson here that every brand and marketer needs to take note of going forward. No matter where you’re from or how large or small your campaign is, the global conversation regarding email marketing is decidedly against the spam side of the business. If you take up these practices, you won’t be able to hide from the long arm of the law forever.

This might sound a little dramatic initially, but the sooner you and your team of email marketing experts understand this realization, the sooner you can get down to working within the guidelines of the law. From brushing up on CASL or any other regional anti-spam regulations, to connecting with an organization that can guide you step-by-step through the process via the interpretation and implementation of industry best practices, arming yourself with this kind of knowledge is the only way to extract the maximum amount of value from email marketing, all while playing by the rules. For brands covering virtually any industry, it’s easy to see why going this route and avoiding the temptation to step over the line into the grey area traveled by VisitGuernsey and other domains is the right call for your organization as it makes its way toward a strong position within the inbox.



After months and months of warnings, press releases, and precautionary tales from this and other industry sources, the hammer finally came down on those who remained unwilling to abide by the new rules and regulations surrounding Canada’s stance on spam tactics. Specifically, Quebec-based management and technology consulting firm Compu-Finder stands alone with the dubious “honor” of being the first organization to feel the wrath of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL.) To find out just what Compu-Finder did to earn this $1.1 million fine, as well as what you need to do to avoid having the same fate befall your organization, let’s break down the story from a variety of angles and with all of the facts surrounding the incident.

What Exactly Happened with Compu-Finder?

On March 5th, 2015, the office of the Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer of the Canadian Radio-Television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) announced that Compu-Finder had received a Notice of Violation. In total, four spam violations fell under this notice, eliciting $1.1 million in fines from the CRTC. Needless to say, the first fine offered up on behalf of the CASL was far from a slap on the wrist. In fact, it’s completely understandable to view this response as “sending a message” to any other firms or organizations that might be toeing the line between acceptable communications and outright spamming.

The Particulars of the Violation

So what exactly did Compu-Finder do to merit such a harsh reaction from the CRTC? As industry expert Mickey Chandler explains on his personal spam and policy blog, this organization broke the anti-spam law in two different, but equally serious, ways. First, Compu-Finder sent marketing messages to recipients that did not offer up prior consent between July 2nd, 2014, and September 16th, 2014.

Aside from firing off unsolicited messages into unsuspecting inboxes, the team operating this campaign went a step farther and refused to unsubscribe customers that no longer desired to be a member of Compu-Finder’s contact list. In fact, Chandler notes that the aforementioned office of the Chief Compliance and Enforcement Officer received firsthand accounts from consumers in which these unsubscribed individuals attempted to connect with this company and explain that these marketing messages were still ending up in the inbox, only to have the stream of messages remain steady and unaffected.

To put it bluntly, Compu-Finder either didn’t understand how the unsubscribe feature of a mailing list works, or simply didn’t care whether or not the person on the other side of the screen wanted to receive these messages any more. Whether the reasoning behind this activity is ignorance or negligence, it doesn’t take an industry insider to understand that both methods are a recipe for disaster under the new rules.

The First of Many?

Of course, it is important to understand that at the time of the publication of this article no other organizations have come under fire thanks to CASL infractions, so it’s reasonable to wonder if this is just an isolated incident. However, with Nestor E. Arellano of IT World Canada reporting that Compu-Finder accounted for 26 percent of the total complaints submitted so far, the reality of the situation is that there’s more than likely more Notices of Violation coming down the pipelines. The question now turns away from if more notices will go out and instead to when we’ll see the next big breaking story regarding fines and penalties.

Protecting Your Brand from Spam Regulations

Now that you’re up to speed on just how serious the CRTC is about CASL enforcement, it’s time to talk about keeping you on the right side of the law and avoiding any actions that could have your brand joining the ranks of Compu-Finder and any other pending violators.

First off, spend some time browsing over the CRTC anti-spam page and familiarizing yourself with the particulars of this legislation. If you’re looking for some anti-spam reading material that skips over the legal mumbo jumbo and gives you a crash course regarding compliance and proper email and SMS marketing tactics, we’ve already spent some time covering the basics, as well as digging even deeper with a CASL Survival Guide.

For those of you worried about your current standing – or the potential for looming violations – you’ll want to read up on these posts, in addition to connecting with the CRTC immediately. As Arellano goes on to explain, Compu-Finder only has 30 days to pay the penalty or submit paperwork refuting the claims, so time is of the essence. Hopefully you’ll never find yourself in this position, but at least now with the first groundbreaking violation on the books, you have all the info you need to see just how serious stepping over the CASL line can be for your brand’s viability in the inbox.


It’s hard to argue with the fact that texting with your customers is at or near the top of the list when it comes to effective marketing strategies. Whether it’s Mashable’s Allegra Tepper noting that viewers open 98 percent of sent messages, or Rimma Kats from Mobile Commerce Daily reporting that consumers are 10 times more likely to redeem a mobile coupon when compared to a traditional options, there’s no denying that SMS marketing is a powerhouse for brands that pull it off right. However, like any other great thing, a few bad apples can spoil the whole deal for everyone involved.

To help combat this wave of illicit text usage, the Messaging, Malware, and Mobile Anti-Abuse Working Group, otherwise known as M3AAWG, has released a series of industry best practices to help steer brands away from the temptation of mistreating contact list members. With that in mind, let’s dig into the report and see what your brand needs to do to ensure that it stays on the straight and narrow, all while keeping the good vibes flowing with audience members.

What Is M3AAWG?

While all of this sounds nice, you’re probably sitting in front of your computer wondering what M3AAWG is and why this organization cares about your text marketing campaign. To answer the first part of that quandary, this organization is an open membership group that services the technologically oriented communications industries – in this case, anyone who plans to connect with customers via text. As far as the motives of this group, the goal of M3AAWG is to bring these related sectors together to combat messaging abuse – namely spam, viruses, and any other threat to the digital well being of consumers around the globe.

Laying the Foundation

To pave the way for this goal, M3AAWG released a comprehensive review of the issues facing the industry and its recommended feedback to these problems. At the heart of the report is the concept of making mobile marketing abuse unprofitable. By having regulatory bodies and laws, like CASL, bring the hammer down on those who stick a toe over the line that separates acceptable from illicit, M3AAWG hopes to curtail the threat of spam and other shady practices to unsuspecting readers. Aside from covering the threats faced by the text community, the report also covers safe Internet browsing and protecting business web domains.

Developing Industry Best Practices

To help realize this dream of a spam-free community, M3AAWG offers up some important best practices for brands like your own. Before your messages start hitting mobile inboxes, here’s a quick breakdown of M3AAWG’s recommended tactics, as explained by The Wall Street’s MarketWatch blog. First, limiting the number of messages you send, as well as notifying the authorities of any group soliciting black market bulk user information, can help separate your campaign from the ranks of generic spammers. Naturally, there’s nothing wrong with connecting with your audience regularly, but if you’re going overboard with multiple daily messages, you’ve definitely crossed over into the shadier part of the industry.

From here, resist the temptation of spam endorsements at all costs. While the idea of pumping up your contact list with new users is great at first glance, subscribing to these services, even if it is free, only propagates consumer abuse in the form of compromised personal information and illicit data harvesting. Additionally, letting your customers provide feedback with the 7726 (SPAM) system keeps your campaign honest and provides feedback from the viewers at the same time. The last recommendation is a call to action of sorts for the industry. Instead of just reading about text messaging best practices on blogs like this one, connect with others via comment sections, forums, and social media to help spread the word about doing business, and gaining results, the right way.

Is This the Same as CASL?

Considering all the coverage we’ve given CASL recently, you’re probably seeing a lot of similarities between that legislation and this industry report. The big difference here is that CASL is a law with severe penalties for those who decide to break it, while M3AAWG’s recommendations for best practices is simply the industry chiming in with its own take on the right way to connect with mobile shoppers. However, if you truly want to stay on the good side of the law, the overlap between these two offerings can help reinforce a strong approach to mobile marketing, according to Candice So of news outlet ITBusiness.ca. It might seem like a little bit of overkill at first glance, but keeping up with M3AAWG’s releases and staying on top of all the latest regarding CASL enforcement is a smart way to keep your campaign rolling smoothly and avoid the long arm of the law.



If you’re in the business of connecting with customers via marketed emails or SMS messages, you have probably heard that Canada’s new anti-spam legislation (CASL) is up and running this month. Of course, knowing that things have changed regarding marketing laws doesn’t do your organization much good if you’re not familiar with the new rules. With that in mind, let’s take a moment to do a quick crash course regarding the new legislation. From here, next week’s post on the subject will cover the basics of staying in compliance with the CASL as you roll out your next email or text marketing campaign.

Does CASL Affect You?

If you’re reading this article and you use email or SMS messages to connect with customers, the new anti-spam legislation directly affects how you conduct your operations on a daily basis. However, there are other facets of your business outlook that can also change based on the expanded coverage brought forth by this legal ruling. CASL also has specific regulations for any company that also installs software or programs on mobile phones or computers. Basically, if you have a branded app or download in addition to an email or text initiative, you’ll need to be extra careful as you move forward under this new system.

Express Consent

Now that we know who’s affected by this development, it’s time to look at the specifics of the regulations. First up is the concept of express consent and its role in the marketing process. At the core of every shady spam operation is the idea that quantity is better than quality. Naturally, the best way to boost numbers is to simply fire off emails to any address, regardless of whether or not the user wants these promotional messages. Under the new CASL laws, if you want to send an email, text message, or have your app installed on a consumer phone, express and documented consent is the only way to stay on the right side of the law.

Transparency In Transit

Outside of making sure everything’s crystal clear when it comes to asking for permission, the anti-spam legislation also takes aim at less than transparent communications. For instance, altering transmissions in order to have the message arrive at a different location is a major faux pas. Obviously, this is something that most legitimate brands aren’t interested in, but it’s still important to know about this technicality as it ties directly in with express consent and ensuring that the consumer always knows exactly what they’re receiving during a marketing operation.

False or Misleading Content

After covering how these messages arrive, the government’s new stance on the matter takes a look at what’s inside your messages. While this might seem a little nosy at first, the main issue here is that CASL wants to protect consumers from false or misleading emails and texts. Whether it’s slight embellishments or complete lies about products and services, hedging the truth for the sake of a great marketing push is a quick way to bring down sanctions and fines from the various branches covering the enactment of this new legislation.

Unethical Data Harvesting

The final big move from CASL covers unethical data harvesting during an electronic marketing campaign. Whether it’s prying into your audience’s personal life without their consent or keeping tabs via illegally acquired consumer data, this new set of legislation takes a firm stance on where morality fits into the marketing process. Additionally, infiltrating computer systems and installing programs without the knowledge and consent of the owner are also mentioned at length in this portion of the new legislation, giving the powers that be enhanced reach in the fight against unethical operations during the marketing process.

The Big Three

So what happens if you slip up and stick a toe over the CASL line? In this circumstance, be prepared to come in contact with at least one of the three government agencies responsible for enforcing the law. The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) has the power to issue monetary penalties to violators of this anti-spam law. In conjunction with this new ability, the Competition Bureau has the right to pursue potential misconduct and seek monetary penalties or criminal sanctions. Finally, an amended version of the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Document Act gives the Office of the Privacy Commissioner extended authority to investigate illicit marketing operations occurring via text and email.

Now that you’re familiar with all the ins and outs of who administers CASL and what it covers, be sure to check in next week as we delve into the best ways to stay on the right side of this legislation and still make a major impact with your SMS and email campaigns.

CASL - Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation


After all your hard work creating and optimizing what you thought was the perfect promotional email, there’s nothing worse than checking in, only to see your open rates are deep in the tank. For many brands, this nightmare becomes a reality quickly, often for some of the most preventable reasons. If you’d like to skip the disappointment and keep your messages out of readers’ virtual trash cans, here are five easy mistakes you’ll need to avoid as you make your way toward a powerful, and successful, email marketing campaign.

Succumbing to Link Overload

Think of the last time you cleaned out your spam folder. Chances are the messages in this portion of your inbox ranged from the stereotypical – foreign royalty asking for a small donation in return for riches – to the downright odd. However, one of the common themes across most of these spam emails is an overabundance of links within the message body. With many spam filters honing in on link overload, if you want to stick around in the inbox, you’ll need to pick and choose your hyperlink battles. Try to keep your linking to a minimum if possible, focusing only on redirecting to landing and promotional pages. It might seem like a wasted opportunity to not link back to your page throughout the message, but based on the direction major email service providers are taking these platforms, it’s your best bet for dodging an unwarranted trip to the spam folder.

Unnecessarily Promotional Subject Lines

If you’re a regular reader of this blog, you know that subject lines can make or break your chance at connecting with a customer in an instant. But what if your viewers never even get a chance to hear your promotion out because the subject line of your message makes it suitable only for the digital trash can? Unfortunately, overly promotional or overtly sales-focused headlines often earn a ticket straight to the spam folder. To put the brakes on this problem, tone down the numbers, capitalization, and forceful words – think “hurry now,” “open immediately,” etc. – so that your message doesn’t look like it belongs with the rest of the spam folder riff-raff. Instead, keep things simple in your subject line and focus on indentifying the valuable content held within your message. This way, you’ll avoid the wrong part of your audiences’ preferred email clients, in addition to giving them a great reason to keep reading on once they receive your email.

Emails with Too Much Text

While spam filters probably won’t screen your messages based solely on the length of content within, that won’t stop readers from marking incoming emails from your brand as spam after opening something that’s better suited for a library shelf. Essentially, readers only spend about 15 to 20 seconds on each message, so if you go overboard with the length of your message, it’s hard to expect a favorable response from your audience. Unfortunately, there’s no defined ideal message length, so the answer to this dilemma is a bit murky. A good rule of thumb to stand by if you’re unsure about the appropriateness of your email length is to ask yourself a simple question – if this message found its way to your inbox, would you take the time to read it? If the answer is closer to trashing it and blocking the sender than it is to an emphatic yes, it’s time to do a little trimming with your content.

Attachments Only Cause Problems

At first glance, this section probably sounds like it belongs on a dating advice site and not a post about keeping your emails from being caught up in a spam filter. However, if you really want to keep your marketed emails in the clear, skipping attachments is your best bet. Sure, it might seem like a great idea to attach that infographic or eBook you’ve worked so hard on to every email, but this is a major red flag for plenty of email service providers. Instead, after taking a little time in the message to explain the value of these offerings, let your selective links lead back to this content via landing pages. This way, you’ll skip the spam folder and boost site visits at the same time.

Know When Enough is Enough

Tenacity is often a key part in any marketing operation. However, when it comes to your email initiatives, constantly targeting and messaging people who have bounced repeatedly is a recipe for disaster. Not only are you building ill-will with someone who’s simply not interested right this moment, your brand could also face a spot on Gmail, Yahoo, or another email giant’s blacklist – something far worse than ending up in the spam folder. Thankfully, if you can toe this line, while also keeping up with everything else you’ve learned from this post, there’s nothing that can stop your next campaign from being a smash hit with interested audience members around the globe.

Inbox vs. Spam Folder


CASL is coming! CASL is coming! CASL is coming!

What does this mean?
How does this affect me?
What do I have to do?
When should I start preparing?

These are just some of the many questions I have been asked by businesses, nonprofits, and every other type of organization that uses email or SMS text messages to communicate with Canadians.

People are left with lots of questions, but don’t seem to be getting a lot of answers. Myself and the team at Elite Email knew we had to fix that!

There cannot be this new piece of legislation that impacts every marketer with penalties to the tune of millions of dollars, that people do not understand. After all, it’s really hard to comply with something, if you do not understand what you’re complying with, or what compliance would look like.

I had previously written a blog post to help people understand CASL, but now with the July 1, 2014 date looming closer and more organizations placing “CASL compliance” higher on their radar, I knew there was an urgent need for something more comprehensive. People needed one detailed source of information to help them understand the new law, but, even more important than that, give them a step-by-step plan on the road to compliance.

With that being said, I am happy to announce that after a tremendous amount of effort, today we are releasing Elite Email’s CASL Survival Guide.
CASL Survival Guide

The guide is available online (as web pages), PDF, and ePub/eBook format.

It covers all the essentials including:

  • Overview of CASL
  • Final Regulations & Recent Modifications
  • CASL’s Bite / Penalties
  • CASL Requirements
  • In-Depth Look at Consent
  • How to Prepare for CASL
  • Will CASL Ultimately Be a Good Thing?

The actual legislation is a massive document that you can read here if you happen to have a lot of time on your hands and enjoy deciphering cryptic language. But, if you want to get all the information written in language you can understand, then this guide is for you!

I also want to take a moment to thank all the people involved in putting this document together. It was a true collaborative effort and the final results clearly shows everyone’s desire and drive to make this the best CASL resource that exists today.

I hope this guide is a great resource to everyone that will help prepare your for the post-CASL era of marketing to Canadians.

For the most complete information about CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation)
please review the complimentary

Elite Email CASL Survival Guide

If you’re an email marketer you have undoubtedly heard of CASL, which is the acronym for “Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation”.

Does this new set of rules apply to you? YES!
Do you need to care about it? YES
Do you understand it? Well, uhh, hmm, kind of, maybe….

There’s lots of information about CASL already available online, but a lot of it is complicated, often riddled with legal jargon, and frankly just not written in plain English so you can gain some sort of handle on what this is all about. That is why we have customers calling us and saying they’ve read all about the new laws, but don’t understand it and are more confused when they started.

Let’s fix that and get you up to speed on the who, what, where, when and why of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation!

What is CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation)?

CASL is the Canadian Government’s new weapon (or so they hope) in the fight against spam. It outlines new requirements and rules for how commercial electronic messages (CEM) are sent. The highlight reel for the goals of CASL are to prohibit:

  • Spamming (…I’m a prince from a far off land, can I borrow your bank account to park my billions of dollars…) [section 6]
  • Hacking (… imagine what I could do if I controlled your computer…) [section 7]
  • Malware / Spyware (…you didn’t know it, but you just installed a program on your computer so prepare for nonstop pop-up banner ads…) [section 8]
  • Fraud (… this week we’re having a 75% off sale… but surprise, it’s really only 15%….) [section 75]
  • Harvesting (… I’ll build a big email database by grabbing every email address ever published on the web…) [section 82 (2)]
  • Privacy Invasions (… I’ll just help myself to all of your personal information even without your permission…) [section 82 (3)]

The stated purpose of the law is: “An Act to promote the efficiency and adaptability of the Canadian economy.”

Does This Law Affect Me?

Are you sending email from Canada? If so, the answer is yes.

Are you sending email to anyone in Canada even if you are located somewhere else? If so, the answer is yes.

The reason CASL could have a huge impact is because of this second question. The law is not just limited to Canadians, it takes effect any time a Canadian computer is used to access the email (or any commercial electronic message). So, if you’re in the USA, but your email newsletter also goes to those north of the border, then all these rules apply. Even if you’re somewhere overseas, the claim is that CASL is still in force.

This is what Andrea Rosen, the CRTC’s chief compliance and enforcement officer said:

If the spammer is offshore, we have the ability under the law to co-operate with foreign governments, to share information and to bring proceedings together against individuals that are offshore.

I don’t want to go into this quote too much…. but…. (please read this with the highest degree of saracasm)… good luck Canada!
I look forward to hearing about the case: CRTC vs. Random Spammer X located in a cave in a far off land sending emails about the best ways to enlarge your (use your imagination)

The funny thing is that all those “buy drugs from Canada” spam messages we receive usually aren’t sent from within Canada, so the enforcement is going to require this offshore cooperation. Again, good luck Canada!

It should be noted that there is a special exemption in CASL if the sender does not know or could not expect to know that the receiver was in Canada.

What are the main requirements of CASL?

The entire law is long (really long), but in a nut shell, these are the key requirements:

  • Permission must be obtained before sending email.
  • The permission must be able to be proved with clear consent.
  • No pre-checked boxes on forms. The consent must be an affirmative action. [<< Make sure you take note of this for any forms you use!]
  • No false or misleading subject lines or from names. The sender must be clearly defined.
  • Working unsubscribe mechanism. Any unsubscribe requests must be processed within 10 days and the unsubscribe link must be valid for 60 days after the send date.
  • You are not allowed to confirm unsubscribes by sending an “Are you sure you want to unsubscribe?” email.
  • Must include a valid postal mailing address (P.O boxes are fine) and one of the following: web address with contact form, email address or phone number.
  • If you are sending “on behalf of” another organization, both organizations must be identified.

It should also be noted that charity organizations are included in CASL if they are selling or soliciting anything.
If you’re an existing customer of Elite Email, then your email marketing activities are already abiding by a lot of these requirements.

What is Exempt from CASL?

There are a variety of things that are specifically excluded from the rules outlined in CASL. My theory is that this list will be expanded before things are finalized, but here are the main exemptions right now:

  • Email between family or people you have a personal relationship with (… phew, you won’t go to prison for emailing your aunt!)
  • Employees at one company emailing employees of another company, if the companies have a business relationship.
  • Responding to an inquiry that could be in the form of a question, complaint or solicitation.
  • Work-related emails sent between employees at the same company.
  • If someone requests more information from your company (could be for a quote, estimate, general information, membership inquiry, etc) then you can reply to them.
  • A charity can contact someone if they made a donation in the past 18 months.
  • Any legal message relating to a recall, copyright notice, or debt collection request.
  • One non-consent email can be sent for third party referrals provided that the person/organization making the referral has either a non-business or personal relationship with the recipient and sender. On top of that, the sender must clearly state who made the referral.
  • Transactional emails that do not contain any marketing language (<– We’re for sure going to see this further clarified.)

How Does CASL Define Consent?

The underlying key to CASL is consent, consent, consent. You just cannot do anything without consent.

CASL has mapped out four different circumstances that would qualify as consent.

  • Explicit Consent
    This is when the recipient gives you direct permission to email them. For example, if someone signs up for your mailing list using an online signup form that would qualify as explicit consent. But, remember, this type of consent cannot be obtained through opt-out, so make sure you don’t pre-check the “Yes, I want your mailings” box because that voids everything (… and then you do not pass go, do not collect $200, and you go straight to jail).
    You can also get oral or written consent, but this starts to get tricky because you have to be able to prove that consent was obtained. If you’re planning on getting consent using these methods, make sure you document everything very carefully so you can provide your case if it comes to that.
  • Implied Consent
    This type of consent takes the form of an existing business or non-business relationship between the sender and recipient. In the eyes of CASL, a “business relationship” is one where a customer has made a purchase from you or entered into a contract. A “non-business relationship” would be if someone does volunteer work for you or actually becomes part of your organization.
    One really important thing to note is the “2 Year Rule”. If someone purchased something from you in the past 2 years, then you can send them emails for 2 years from their purchase date under the implied consent criteria. However, during that time you must obtain explicit consent if you want to email them after the two years. Keep in mind that if this same person buys from you again during the two year period, the clock resets and you’ve got two more years before you need explicit consent.
  • Conspicuous Publication
    This is definitely an interesting part of the current draft of CASL. If you obtain someone’s email address and it meets these criteria, then you have qualified as having enough consent to email them. (1) Their email address is clearly published for viewing; (2) The address is not accompanied by a statement saying that they do not want to receive unsolicited messages; (3) the message is directly related to the person’s business or official role.
    Two important things to be aware of is that the clear publishing of the person’s email address must be done by the person directly or with the authorization of the person. So, a company website that lists an employee roster is legit, but some random website that posts a bunch of contact info is not OK. Also, the email you send must be highly related to the person’s job/role , which is very vague in the current draft. But, as an example, you can email a lawyer about a new law book, but you cannot email them about the cool new t-shirts you’re selling.
    The last thing on this topic is to keep in mind that PIPEDA prohibits the harvesting of addresses, so you cannot use a program to automatically capture this information from the web.
  • Shared Email Address with the Sender
    I call this the “business card” rule. If someone gives you their business card then you can email them stuff that is related to their job/role. Of course, they can also give you their email address in other ways, but the main thing is that they are willingly supplying you with their email address and not saying that they do not want to receive emails from you. Although, I can tell you that if someone hands you their business card and says “don’t email me” that probably isn’t a really good sales lead.

When Does It Take Effect?

Before we look at where we’re going, lets take a look back at where CASL has been:

  • May 25, 2010 :: Bill C-28 First Reading
  • Dec. 15, 2010 :: Royal Assent (Passed)
  • July 2011 :: Regulations Drafted
  • July 2011 :: Regulations “gazetted” for Review
  • Sept. 7, 2011 :: Draft Regulations Comment Deadline
  • Mar. 2012 :: CRTC Regulations Gazetted
  • Jan. 5, 2013 :: Industry Canada Draft Regulations Published for Comment
  • Mid 2013 :: Industry Canada Final Regulations
  • Mid 2014 (maybe?) :: CASL Takes Effect

So, the answer to when CASL will go live is still a topic of much debate. (Insert gasp here that the Canadian government moves slowly!)

CASL was recently delayed for a few reasons:

  • Still ironing out details as there are many unhappy parties (more on this later)
  • There is disagreement between Industry Canada and the CRTC about how the law should be regulated
  • There are expected mid-term cabinet changes and these shifts could skew priorities.

If you really want to make a note in your calendar, then current speculation is that the law will not be enforced until the Fall of 2014. This follows a one year grace period after everything is published this year. However, don’t be surprised if this gets delayed yet again.

On top of that, CASL will have a transition period once it comes into effect so that organizations have ample time to obtain the neccessary consent to ensure they are playing by these new rules.

What is the Penalty for Violating CASL?

Canada’s anti-spam law is not fooling around when it comes to the punishment for breaking the rules.

Penalties for violations can range from up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for companies.

Three interesting things to note about the enforcement of this are:

  • Any person can bring this law against a sender up to $1 million. But, if they are found to be incorrect, they will be required to pay court/legal fees. So, it’s not like if you avoid sending emails to the RCMP you can avoid getting in trouble because anyone can make a claim under this new legislation.
  • If you can demonstrate that you made very strong efforts (due diligence) to comply with all the rules and done everything to obtain proper consent, then that will play a factor in the event a lawsuit comes up. It is for this reason that it’s super important you keep track of everything so you can cover yourself later with a stronger case if things get messy.
  • Officers of an organization can also be held accountable for the messages sent out by their organization. Bottom line, YOU are responsible if you do bad things.

What is the Difference Between CASL and the U.S. CAN-SPAM Act?

There’s a long list of differences between these two sets of regulations, but the major differences are:

  • CASL requires express consent to send commercial messages. Basically, the recipient must “opt in” as opposed to the CAN-SPAM Act that mandates “opt out”. So, under the US law, you can send someone a first email as long as they can request no further messages, whereas under the Canadian law even that first email has you breaking the rules.
    Note: Email marketing best practices already encourages the opt in procedure as opposed to opt out.
  • CASL requires specific disclosure when an organization requests consent. Senders must clearly state the reason they are requesting consent, clearly identify themselves, provide contact information, and explain that consent can be withdrawn later. None of this appears in the CAN-SPAM Act.
  • The coverage for CASL covers email, text messages, instant messages, directly pushed social media messages, and installation of computer programs. The CAN-SPAM Act covers email.

 What Should You Be Doing to Prepare for CASL?

The good news is that if you are a customer of Elite Email, then you are already doing most things to comply with CASL. Built right into our online email marketing software is a process that makes sure you’re covered on a lot of these items. But, there are still some things I want to highlight so you’ve got a good checklist of items on your radar that you can be aware of.

  • Consent, consent, consent… it’s all about consent! We want to have bulletproof iron-clad proof that we’ve obtained consent properly and legitimately.
    • Record all sign-ups from your website.
    • Capture and record the IP address when the signup is first initiated and later confirmed.
    • Document how your relationship with someone began. Did they purchase from you? Did they signup online for your newsletter?
    • If you’re getting oral or written consent, make sure it’s something you can later prove. (This could be a challenge, so online signups or something with a digital papertrail is better.)
  • Take a detailed look at your database and try to figure out who you need to re-confirm with proper provable consent.
    • Are there customers who purchased from you 2 years ago that you won’t be able to email if they don’t re-confirm?
    • Are there contacts where you’d have a hard time proving their consent?
    • Are there contacts who haven’t engaged with your emails (opened or clicked) in a long time? If so, try to re-engage them or take them off your list.
  • When someone signs up for your mailing list, send them a welcome email to verify their subscription.
    • This double opt-in or closed-loop subscription process is important not only to comply with CASL, but also to make sure that a sneaky individual didn’t come to your website and signup using their arch enemies email address…. because then you might get spam complaints as well.
  • Make sure your subject lines and sender names are correct, clear and consistent. (The three “C’s” if you will.)
  • Have a working unsubscribe link and valid contact details so someone can reach you if they want to.
    • This includes monitoring replies you receive from your email so if someone says “remove me”, then you can do it right away.
    • Sending your emails from a no-reply address is a BAD thing.
  • Make sure your postal address is in your emails.
  • Take a look at your privacy policy as it relates to data collection to ensure it’s up-to-date and aligned with all the new CASL rules.

Remember that CASL is still evolving and being refined. No one knows yet exactly what the final set of rules will look like. So, while the above steps will keep your best foot forward, make sure you keep an ear to the ground so that if something does change you are not caught off-guard. Rest assured, the compliance team at Elite Email is also all over this!

What Are Some of The Criticisms of CASL?

There’s been a lot of backlash since CASL was originally proposed. For instance, there was a two month consultation period (ending on Sept. 7, 2011) where 55 different organizations raised their concerns to Industry Canada. As a result of that, a revised regulation was published on Jan. 5, 2013, but the criticisms certainly have not stopped.

I don’t want to go too much into this, however if you want to read more, Marketing Magazine has a good article titled “The Hidden Costs of Canada’s Anti-Spam Law“.

The one over arching theme from everyone who is complaining about this is not that they are against stopping spam. Everyone is on-board with stopping spam as no one needs more junk mail. The criticism is that this new law will do nothing to actually stop spam. It enforces a new, broad and strict set of rules on organizations that are already trying to do things properly, while really doing nothing to stop the worst offenders who are sending spam from a far off land. So, CASL is giving us more red tape and hoops to jump through, but what is it actually doing to benefit Canadian citizens?

On top of that, many in the small business community are outraged because to some it feels like these new laws put up serious barriers to using email effectively because they cannot afford to invest resources to wade through all the red tape. There has been a shift from sending paper flyers through Canada Post to email because it’s more effective, more measurable, more affordable, and definitely more environmentally conscious (to the joy of trees everywhere!). But, if the Canadian Government wants to clamp down on what can be sent through email, will it result in more junk filling up your physical mailbox?

Personally I think there are some good parts of CASL. In certain spots of the legislation you can really see the positive intent of what they are trying to accomplish. But, it’s gotten so bloated with this scenario and that scenario, that I fear the true intent is getting lost and in realty it may only result in punishing the people who were doing everything 99% correctly anyway.

You can get more information direct from the Canadian government at http://fightspam.gc.ca.

CASL - Canada's Anti-Spam Legislation


This blog post is intended to provide our general comments on the new law. It is not intended to be a comprehensive review nor is it intended to provide legal advice. Readers should not act on information in the publication without first seeking specific advice from their lawyer. In short, I am not a lawyer, nor do I pretend to be a lawyer.


The prevailing ideology in the world of email has historically been that spam is the biggest threat to email productivity.

A recent 2012 study titled “The Economics of Spam” by Justin M. Rao (Microsoft Research) and David H. Reiley (Google Inc.) estimates that American firms and consumers experience costs of almost $20 billion annually due to spam. Other studies have estimated the costs even higher closer to the $50 billion mark.

One of the big factors that goes into the cost of spam is lost productivity. If an employee spends 20 minutes a day weeding out spam from their inbox, and assuming an average hourly rate of $23.82 (Bureau of Labor Statistics, Feb. 2013), the daily cost is $7.86. With 52 work weeks, this results in $2,043.60 per year.

However, with advances in spam filtering technology, that number is expected to drop rapidly and a new enemy to email productivity has emerged.

The new biggest problem: Long Emails

We live in a society of 140 character tweets, 30 second video clips, quick SMS text messages, and fast status updates. Yet despite the global move towards brevity, emails can still be very long. This is the new economic challenge.

Using the same calculations as before, we can see the direct effects this plague of long emails has in terms of productivity and dollars. A poll by Elite Email reveals that the average employee reports spending 90 minutes per day reading through long emails. This works out to a daily cost of $28.58 and a huge annual cost of $7,430.80. This clearly highlights that long emails pose a far greater threat than spam.

The top ISPs of the world are jumping on this problem right away before it spirals out of control.

Google (gmail), Yahoo, Microsoft (outlook/hotmail) and AOL have come together to form a new task force named U.S.A.P. (Unified Short Attention Span).

These big four mail providers are not wasting any time and have already proposed new limits coming into effect on January 1, 2014.

Starting in 2014, all emails will be limited to 500 words. Any words over that limit will not be displayed.

The U.S.A.P. organization said, in its official statement:

In today’s economic climate we can no longer afford to play a part in decimating the productivity of the average employee and forcing businesses to incur this unfair cost brought about by long emails. We are going to reign in this problem now and impose harsh limits to get things back on track. We believe these new limits will be welcomed by email users globally and celebrated by business owners who can capitalize on big productivity savings.

As of January 1, 2014, anyone composing a new email will see an alert when they exceed the 500 word email limit.

Gmail: 500 Word Email Limit

Screenshot from Gmail enforcing new 500 word limit.

The new restrictions have received a lot of support from the internet community. While many recognize the limit as harsh, the global consensus is that desperate times call for desperate measures and this is precisely what we need.

Is your organization going to be ready to work within the new 500 word limit?

Many consultants have started running seminars at larger organizations in an effort to treat the condition known as “digital verbal diarrhea”, which is the key driver behind long-winded emails.

One consultant we interviewed said:

Digital verbal diarrhea is a serious issue. But, the first step is admitting you have the problem. Once you’ve come to terms with that, we can begin to treat the issue at its core. The ultimate goal is to have you writing short emails and never relapse into the never-ending scrolling emails that plague so many people right now.

At Elite Email, we firmly believe that these new restrictions will usher in a new era of responsible emailing that will boost productivity in one big swoop. We fully support the initiative by U.S.A.P. as a big step forward in global digital communication.

Furthermore… Happy April Fools’ Day! :)

© 2013 Elite Email Inc. Blog Admin