In the run-up to the 2015 federal election, Canadian business owners may
start getting unsolicited emails from political parties inviting them to
The ones that come from the Conservative Party of Canada may be especially
aggravating. After all, it was a Conservative government that brought in
Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) – a law that is costing Canadian
businesses millions to implement but that few believe will put any kind of
dent in phishing scams and spam.
They may bristle at the idea that the Conservative government exempted
political parties from the kinds of penalties that legitimate Canadian
businesses now face under CASL for sending a single email.
Fines for breaching CASL can reach maximums of $1 million for individuals or
$10 million for corporations, although it’s expected those kinds of fines
will be levied only against the worst repeat offenders – the true spammers
of the world.
“Our objective is not to punish but rather to achieve compliance in the most
efficient way possible while preventing recidivism,” said Patricia Valladao,
a spokeswoman for the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications
But Canadian companies need not be fined to have CASL hit them in the
pocketbooks. The Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB)
estimates it is costing small and medium-sized businesses in Canada between
$30,000 and $50,000 to become compliant with CASL. They are also losing
significant volumes of business contacts, thanks to CASL’s requirement that
businesses get implied or express consent of recipients to send any kind of
electronic message that has a commercial intent. Businesses had until July 1
to get the express consent of their subscribers and business contacts.
“The success rate of how many people actually confirmed became pretty low,”
said Robert Burko, president of the Canadian email marketing firm Elite
Email. “There’s a lot of anger, especially in the small-business community
What many Canadian business owners find most annoying is how complex and
heavy-handed CASL is compared with anti-spam laws in other countries such as
the U.S., which adopted a simple opt-out approach, as opposed to the opt-in
approach that Canada took.
“Was it completely necessary, or is this a bit of an overreaction?” asked
CFIB director Richard Truscott. “I think that’s a legitimate question that
should be debated and discussed during the next election campaign.”
“It does represent an enormous amount of record-keeping and paperwork.
They’ve brought in a law and don’t seem to have thought too much about how
businesses will actually adjust,” Truscott said.
CASL has been in effect for two weeks now. In the first week of the new
legislation going into effect, the CRTC received 12,000 complaints about
spam. But it’s estimated that only 2% of the world’s spam originates from
Canada, so the CRTC may have little legal authority over the vast majority
of the offenders.
Some of Burko’s clients saw their client email lists dwindle by 40%.
Business-to-business (B2B) trade will be the main casualty of CASL, he said,
because consumer-focused companies have a variety of ways of getting
customers to sign up for things like newsletters and e-flyers.
“A lot of these B2B companies rely on the cold email,” Burko said. “Now that
email’s not allowed, they’re really hit hard by this because the
capabilities of them to now build a new permission-based, opt-in,
CASL-compliant list for lead prospecting is difficult.”
The new law has had some surprising consequences. Whereas email marketers
like Burko feared it could put a serious dent in the email marketing
business, it has actually had the opposite effect, he said.
“We’ve actually been growing by leaps and bounds.”
Companies that once did their email campaigns and newsletters in-house are
now wanting the security of a company that specializes in email marketing,
And many of his new clients are Canadian businesses that are switching from
U.S. email marketing firms to Canadian ones, he said, because they feel they
will have a better understanding of CASL.
Telecom and Internet analyst Mark Goldberg believes CASL will only worsen
the Canadian business community’s reputation for being behind the times when
it comes to e-commerce.
“What we’re doing is we’re putting Canadian legitimate businesses at a
significant disadvantage,” he said. “And in two years we’re going to scratch
our heads once again and say, ‘How come Canadian companies aren’t adopting
e-commerce like the rest of the world?’”
For more information on CASL, visit fightspam.ca or order the CASL guidebook
Internet Law Essentials: Canada’s Anti-Spam Law through www.stpub.com. •