Canadian Anti Spam Law (CASL): An Open Dialogue

On July 1st, the Canadian Government introduced Bill C-28: Canada’s Anti Spam Legislation.

For businesses, this new legislation means investing money, time and staff resources into understanding and complying with a new law. But ultimately, Bill C-28 presents a challenge to businesses and organizations who wish to contact their customers via electronic channels. CASL makes electronic messages against the law, unless the recipients have provided EXPRESS consent.

Express consent is defined by the CRTC as “valid consent given in writing or orally. The recipient gave you a positive or explicit indication of consent to receive commercial electronic messages. Your request for consent set out clearly and simply the prescribed information.”1

In layman’s terms: businesses and organizations must specifically ask for and obtain permission to send marketing materials by means of electronic channels from customers.  Once express consent is obtained, businesses are required to keep detailed records of how and when the consent was obtained.

Initially, it seemed that consumers were thrilled about the idea of a decluttered inbox. However, in the days since CASL’s introduction, most have seen little change in the amount of spam messages received.

Perhaps the reason consumers are seeing little reduction of spam messages is that most of the spam that they are receiving comes from outside of Canada.  Unfortunately, it seems that legitimate Canadian businesses, those that consumers probably want to hear from, are going to suffer.

We wanted to share an open email (below) that we received from one of our customers, Clifton Kanto, and start an open dialogue on this hot topic.

What are your thoughts on this issue?
Is CASL a good or a bad thing for Canadian businesses and consumers?

To: ‘[email protected]’; ‘[email protected]’; ‘Monique Moreau’
Cc: ‘[email protected]

Subject: CASL Complaint – Come on, cut the red tape already.
Importance: High

Good afternoon,

Please see below my signature for a spam message I received earlier today.  Canada’s new Anti-Spam legislation, or CASL, will not work against such emails. CASL has and will continue to hurt only legitimate businesses.

This CASL legislation is an egregious misuse of taxpayer dollars and is a huge slam against small business in Canada. For the first time in my 30 year business history, I feel that my government is deliberately trying to kill my business. Already, we’ve spent hundreds of man-hours and spent tens of thousands of dollars attempting to prepare and comply with CASL, and the true cost has not yet happened. All for ZERO return! The true cost is immeasurable because it comes as lost opportunity and wasted time & resources.

As one of my partners said: “CASL has taken up FAR too much of my and my staff’s time. For the first time ever, I can honestly say our government is impeding my ability to run my business and earn a living. Not cool!”

CASL has created a significant competitive disadvantage for Canadian small businesses. Do businesses across the border in the US have to spend tens of thousands of dollars in software upgrades & human resources to comply with anti-spam? No. Do they require written or verbal permission before they can email legitimate marketing information to prospective customers? No.

How many products have we purchased over time because we received an information email from a company that we’d never previously done business with? Many. That ends now.

This legislation is worse than gun registration in that only legitimate individuals & businesses will comply. The spammers will just keep on spamming as legitimate business scramble to stay on-side.  There is NO upside to CASL, for anyone except lawyers.

I was taught that the punishment should fit the crime. Thinking that sending a rogue email, or set of emails, warrants a $10 million fine is nothing short of ridiculous.

Final question: Since I didn’t take the time to get written or verbal permission to send this message to this email address, am I now to be fined??  I know the answer, but only because of my heavy investment in learning CASL.  The government has done a lackluster job providing clear information and educating us not only on why we need CASL, but how to deal with it.

I am extremely concerned about this legislation because of its huge negative economic impact – not only on my business, but on Canada’s economy.  Come on, cut the red tape already.


Clifton Kanto, CPA, CMA, CPC

Mercer Bradley Inc. |


1 Government of Canada, Express Consent Versus Implied Consent, (June 17, 2014).