Canada's anti-spam legislation (CASL) protects consumers and businesses from the misuse of digital technology, including spam and other electronic threats. It also aims to help businesses stay competitive in a global, digital marketplace. Learn about the legislation as well as how to protect yourself from spam and how to report it when necessary.
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What is spam?
Spam has become a significant social and economic burden in Canada and around the world. The simplest definition of spam is unsolicited email, though it can also include unsolicited text messages and software.
The legal definition of spam also encompasses:
- unauthorized alteration of transmission data
- the installation of computer programs without consent
- false or misleading electronic representations (including websites)
- the harvesting of addresses (collecting and/or using email or other electronic addresses without permission)
- the collection of personal information by accessing a computer system or electronic device illegally
CASL focuses on commercial electronic messages, which are those that encourage participation in a commercial activity whether or not there is an expectation of profit.
CASL was created in 2014 to reinforce best practices in email marketing and combat spam and related cyber threats. These threats include identity theft, phishing and the spread of malicious software, such as viruses, worms and trojans (malware). The legislation has made a positive difference. When CASL took effect in 2014, Canada was home to 7 of the world's top 100 spamming organizations. By 2019, and to this date, there are no longer any Canadian organizations on that list.
Canadians made more than 167,939 complaints to the Spam Reporting Centre between October 1, 2021 and March 31, 2022—more than 6,400 per week. Email sent without consent was the top reason for these complaints, but spam in the form of text messages is also on the rise. These figures show that CASL is an increasingly important tool for Canadians.
Since its inception, CASL has resulted in improvements for both consumers and businesses. In terms of consumers:
- Canadians now receive less spam. One study showed that within a year of the legislation being introduced, there was a 37% decrease in Canadian-based spam and 29% less email (spam or legitimate) in Canadians' in-boxes. Since then, the amount of spam that reaches Canadians has continuously decreased. A number of factors, including legislation like Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation have meant a decrease in the global spam rate, which has fallen from 90% in 2015 to 45.1% in 2021.
Meanwhile, for businesses:
- CASL has caused companies to be more disciplined in managing their electronic marketing programs, by requesting amongst other things, that businesses obtain consent before sending commercial electronic messages. Asking for permission shows consumers that businesses respect their privacy. It also ensures that businesses are communicating with people who are interested in their product or services. As a result, Canadian businesses enjoy the benefits of good email lists with good open and click-through rates.
- CASL plays an important role in building trust in the digital environment, which lead to more economic opportunities for businesses.
The legislation has also enabled Canada to actively share information and cooperate in global enforcement actions. CASL partners have forged partnerships with organizations from across the globe, such as the Unsolicited Communications Enforcement Network (UCENet) whose members from over 26 countries work together to promote international spam enforcement cooperation and address problems relating to spam and unsolicited telecommunications.
Note: The information on this website is intended to provide a plain language explanation of some aspects of the legislation. It is not to be considered as legal advice, an interpretation of any legislation or regulations, or as a settlement or commitment on behalf of the Enforcement Agencies for CASL.