Spam Now So You Can Spam Later

CASL – the new Canadian anti-spam act – comes into force July 1. It contains extensive, complex provisions that apply to the sending of any email that has a hint of a commercial purpose (a “CEM”). In the short term it may increase the amount of email we get. We have all received emails from mail lists we are on asking us to confirm our consent. But there is another reason we may get more. The reason goes like this:

CASL requires express or implied consent from the recipient before a CEM can be sent.

The act contains a transitional provision that gives up to 3 years to get express consent. (The section is below.) To take advantage of that, there must be a current or prior business or non-business relationship with the recipient AND that relationship must include communication of CEM.

Couple that with the fact that after July 1 you can’t send an email to request consent (unless there is implied consent).

So to pull as many email addresses as possible into the transition provision, maximize express consents, and give the longest possible time to obtain them, the tactic is …?

Before July 1, pull together every email address you can get from every person that you can fit into the business or non-business relationship category, and send CEM to them.

The transition section:

66. A person’s consent to receiving commercial electronic messages from another person is implied until the person gives notification that they no longer consent to receiving such messages from that other person or until three years after the day on which section 6 comes into force, whichever is earlier, if, when that section comes into force,

(a) those persons have an existing business relationship or an existing non-business relationship, as defined in subsection 10(10) or (13), respectively, without regard to the period mentioned in that subsection; and

(b) the relationship includes the communication between them of commercial electronic messages.


  1. David Collier-Brown

    In managing to legislate against spam, we’ve effectively had to address all UCE, or “unsolicited commercial email”. Spam itself is probably best described as “unsolicited crap commercial email”, or UCCE (;-))

    To exclude the one and allow the other, do exactly what David suggests: reach out to your business contacts and say you’re supporting the spirit as well as the letter of the law and give them the opportunity to opt in and/or out. Then start a timer.

    For all your new business contacts, send them a covering/followup letter saying the same. It’s moderately easy to make a new or prospective customer feel good about you if you’re sending them a letter about your efforts to avoid spam.

    For organizations that communicate or discuss a lot, I also recommend offering opt-in forums or (automatically opt-in) mailing-lists. My own GTA Linux User Group is very spam-averse, but operates what is sometimes a very “spirited” series of discussions (:-))


  2. A big problem with CASL is indeed that its definition of CEM goes way beyond spam, and includes bacn.

    Spam being “unsolicited bulk messages … especially advertising, indiscriminately” Bacn being “email you want but not right now”

    In other words, it goes beyond emails trying to sell drugs, diets and deals to random recipients, which are universally despised. The problem is that it includes legitimate emails that are at most slightly annoying, and that are from legitimate sources who would stop sending them if you asked.