Canada’s anti-spam law (CASL) was passed by Parliament in 2010, making a lot of businesses nervous since it appears they could be exposed to big fines if they do not overhaul their e-marketing practices. And yet, three years later, the law has still not gone into force. So, what’s the cause for delay?

As we’ve written previously, CASL is introducing an ‘opt-in’ approach to e-marketing, making it illegal for businesses to send unsolicited electronic messages to people without first obtaining their consent. Consent may be express, such as someone signing up to be on a mailing list, or it may be implied such as when there is a pre-existing business relationship.

However, even though the law is now set in stone, one of its key regulations has not been released because Industry Canada hasn’t determined its final shape and form. Until that happens, we won’t know the exact date when the law will come into force or precisely what will be required of businesses to keep their e-marketing efforts legal.

Draft regulations were released for public comment this January. Industry groups opposed to CASL lined up to lobby against the law, framing it as hurting small businesses in Canada. These lobbying efforts appear to have slowed down the process of getting to a final regulation.

Insiders’ current best estimate is that the final regulation will be announced either later this year or in early 2014. CASL would likely go into force a few months later.

Businesses relying on email and fax lists can get ahead of the curve and prepare for CASL now. While it is difficult to offer specific guidelines since no one knows what will be considered “consent,” we do know the law will require some sort of express or implied permission to be obtained from recipients. Businesses that rely on electronic marketing should begin planning now on how they will transition to the new, mandated opt-in model.

We’ll continue to keep you updated as more information becomes known.

Contact Stu Freen by email at or by phone at 416.977.0007.