Email marketing? Click here to protect your brand and your business under the law

July 30, 2015 - Tags: Marketing Regulations

This guest blog post is provided by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner (OPC), which protects and promotes the privacy rights of individuals.

In today's marketplace, each and every business wants to reach as many new customers as possible at the lowest possible cost. And sending mass emails may appear like a good way to get the most bang for your buck. But, doing so today can come at exceptional risk, legally and brand-wise.

Whether your business is doing email marketing itself or through a third party, you need to ensure that the owners of electronic addresses have provided their consent to receive commercial messages. This is required under Canada's anti-spam law or “CASL.”

CASL's coming into force also brought changes to the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), the federal private sector privacy law, which impose new restrictions on what is called electronic “address harvesting,” where computer programs are used to indiscriminately collect electronic addresses, such as email addresses. 

While most companies may not be in the specific business of collecting email addresses, it's important for any and all businesses doing email marketing to be aware of CASL and its changes to PIPEDA

Legally, all organizations are responsible for ensuring that the electronic addresses they, or third parties acting on their behalf, collect for marketing purposes have been obtained with appropriate consent.

Brand-wise, public opinion research conducted by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada (OPC) found that spam ranks as one of the most considerable annoyances and concerns for Canadian online consumers. In other words, for any brand-conscious organization, there's no benefit in being seen as a spammer and greater incentive to guard against this possibility.

The OPC has issued a guide and tip sheet informing organizations of their obligations when collecting electronic addresses and hiring third parties to conduct email marketing.

These materials (which can be found at can help businesses take advantage of the benefits of email marketing, while still protecting themselves under the law, and their reputations within the marketplace. 

The OPC shares responsibility for enforcing CASL with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) and the federal Competition Bureau. The CRTC is responsible for investigating the sending of unsolicited commercial electronic messages, the alteration of transmission data and the installation of software without consent. The Competition Bureau addresses false or misleading representations and deceptive marketing practices in the electronic marketplace.

For details about the full range of matters dealt with under CASL, please visit

Date modified: