Going from opt-out to opt-in: CASL part 2

May 15, 2014


Last week I posted the first part about the new anti-spam law in Canada. Jonathan MacKenzie, lawyer at Aluvion Law, presented last week on the topic “Understanding CASL: the new anti-spam law” for Strategic Focus for StartUps.

In part 1 I wrote about the aim of the Canada Anti-Spam Law (CASL), going from a reactive opt-out system to a proactive opt-in system to fight electronic spam. I also explained the concept of express consent and implied consent. Today, I will write about what you must do, share practical questions asked by the public and tips Jonathan shared.

What you must do

To stay within the restrictions of CASL make sure all electronic business communications have:

  • A clear subject line that tells the receiver what to expect in the body of the email or newsletter;
  • The body of the electronic message may share information of benefit and have a commercial purpose to your prospects and clients (see my blog post about strategic communications);
  • Always have a clear unsubscribe mechanism. This can be a rule as simple as “Reply to this email and write in the subject line unsubscribe” or an automatic unsubscribe mechanism powered by a newsletter service;
  • Include your contact details: this includes your email (an info address or your personal email), your phone number (again, personal or a 1-800 number), and your physical business address;
  • When an individual unsubscribes, you have ten days to remove him or her from your mailing list.

Given the time span CASL gives businesses to contact prospect and (former) clients, it is imperative to start tracking your interactions. Whether you use an Excel spreadsheet, a free online customer relations management (CRM) system like Zoho or a paid CRM like Salesforce, it is time to add some extra information such as when your last sales took place and when you last spoke or emailed.

A few questions from the public

The big question asked in the past few months is “what if I have a home office and don’t want this address exposed on my newsletter?” A fairly easy option is to buy a “virtual office” or mail service at a coworking space and use their business address. You can also choose to have a PO Box and share that address.

Another question that came up around newsletters was which address to use when sending newsletters for clients. If you are sending emails and newsletters on behalf of someone else you should always include their contact details.

Often third party software is used to send newsletters or promotional emails. The relevant question came up if CASL applies whether or not the business uses a third party tool. Firmly we were told, “Yes, CASL is in effect” because any electronic tool we use to send our business communications is covered in the law.

And here’s a good question about social media use. “What if I use LinkedIn to network and to introduce others?” Since people gave their consent to you for contact them because they linked with you, there is no harm in continuing how you are using LinkedIn. However, if you have been sending email via LinkedIn to your contacts asking them to buy your products or services, you can no longer do this.


I love practical advice as a take away from seminars and Jonathan shared three vital tips.

1. Err on the side of caution. As I wrote in last week’s post, we don’t know yet how “commercial activity” is going to be interpreted, affecting how the law will be executed. So, better be safe than sorry and screen you messages!

2. Start cleaning your email list. Ask individuals on your mailing list proactively to opt-in so you can stay in touch with them. Obey CASL in the easiest way and get more express consents!

3. Track your business interactions. Be as detailed as possible in your Customer Relationship Management (CRM) tool. Note when the last time was you spoke to every individual and when he purchased your service or products.

Who is Jonathan?

JonathanJonathan MacKenzie is Kaleidoscope’s legal matters expert and a lawyer at Aluvion Law. He works with small businesses and entrepreneurs, drawing on his former entrepreneurial experience. Aluvion is a new kind of law firm that makes the legal process for individuals and small business simple and transparent.


Image credit for top: Commons Wikimedia


Lisette Andreyko

Lisette is the founder of Kaleidoscope and is passionate about start-up leadership, personal growth and women in business (and psst.. about tea!). She enjoys connecting with small businesses through her network. You can find her on LinkedIn.