Confused about CASL?

By Martin Millican   

Business Operations Manufacturing anti-spam CASL marketing Online marketing

Five tips for an effective consent strategy.

CASL requires express or implied consent from your business contacts. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

CASL requires express or implied consent from your business contacts. PHOTO: THINKSTOCK

During the lead up to the implementation of the Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) on July 1, many companies were in a panic, launching millions of e-mails to their contacts seeking “express consent” to continue sending commercial e-mail, text and social media messages.

These easy to ignore consent requests have many companies wondering how they can communicate with their
customers without being in contravention of the new law.

Well, you can relax! If you didn’t send your consent request prior to July 1, it’s likely the best move you didn’t make. CASL’s real teeth – the right for individuals to sue – will not come into effect until July 1, 2017, so unless your firm is a nasty serial spammer deserving a major slap-down from the CRTC, you have three years to get your sales and marketing databases aligned with CASL.

Before putting a strategy in place, understand what “consent” means.


As of July 1, CASL requires companies to have one of two kinds of consent, each with distinct processes.
One is express consent. Think of it as a single documented “agreement to communicate electronically” between your organization and the contacts in your database.

The other is implied consent, which involves three broad scenarios:

Transaction or inquiry. If someone bought something from your company or made an inquiry, you have until July 1, 2017 to send commercial e-mails on the presumption the transaction or inquiry denotes implied consent. After that date, a transaction will allow for two years of implied consent and an inquiry for six months.
Conspicuously published e-mail address. If someone has published an e-mail address online or elsewhere, it’s okay to send commercial e-mail messages if the content is relevant to that person’s position or role (assuming there isn’t a notice saying not to).
Existing business relationship. The contact has an existing business relationship with your company and has provided an e-mail address without any express notice that they don’t want to receive messages from you. This is the designation most companies are likely to rely on to continue sending most e-mail marketing during the three-year transition period.

Capturing consent
It’s best to begin capturing express consent now from your implied consent contacts. Here are some tips to get you started:

• Add a checkbox, pop-up or confirmation mechanism to all new e-mail sign up forms. You’ll need to capture a number of key details such as the date and time the consent was received, and possibly the IP address of the subscriber’s computer.
• Include a description of the type of e-mail communication the recipient is agreeing to accept. This can be written as broadly as you want and easily enhanced through subscription preference settings that allow contacts to see the types of communication available so they select only the ones they want to receive.
• The request for express consent must be explicit and not combined with anything else. For example, you can’t say, “By downloading this case study you agree to receive messages from XYZ Inc.”
• Express consent can’t be presented as an opt-out mechanism.
• Be clear the contact can withdraw express consent at any time, and there must be a simple and immediate mechanism to do so.

For many companies, developing a CASL consent strategy is daunting because the law extends beyond e-mail, but by putting an effective engagement process in place, compliance will be automatic and relatively painless for all involved.

Martin Millican is the president of, a Toronto-based service provider and developer of permission-based automated marketing solutions.

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