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Canadian Data Protection laws Overview

Chapter 10

Electronic Marketing

Electronic marketing is governed by both Canadian Privacy Statutes (as discussed ‎above), as well as Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).‎

CASL prohibits sending, or causing or permitting to be sent, a commercial electronic message (defined broadly to include text, sound, voice, or image messages aimed at encouraging participation in a commercial activity) unless the recipient has provided express or implied consent and the message complies with the prescribed content and unsubscribe requirements (subject to limited exceptions).

What constitutes both permissible express and implied consent is defined in CASL and its regulations. For example, an organization may be able to rely on implied consent when there is an “existing business relationship” with the recipient of the message, based on:

  • A purchase by the recipient within the past two years, or
  • A contract between the organization and the recipient currently in existence or which ‎expired within the past two years

CASL also prohibits the installation of a computer program on any other person’s computer system, or having installed such a computer program to cause any electronic messages to be sent from that computer system, without express consent, if the relevant system or sender is located in Canada. In addition, the Act contains anti ‎phishing provisions that prohibit (without express consent) the alteration of transmission ‎data in an electronic message such that the message is delivered to a destination other ‎than (or in addition to) that specified by the sender.‎

CASL also introduced amendments to PIPEDA that restrict ‘address harvesting’, or the ‎unauthorized collection of email addresses through automated means (i.e., using a ‎computer program designed to generate or search for, and collect, email addresses) ‎without consent. The use of an individual’s email address collected through address ‎harvesting also is restricted.‎

The ‘Competition Act’ was also amended to make it an offense to provide false or ‎misleading representations in the sender information, subject matter information, or ‎content of an electronic message.‎

CASL contains potentially stiff penalties, including administrative penalties of up to ‎CA$1 million per violation for individuals and CA$10 million for corporations (subject to a ‎due diligence defense). CASL also sets forth a private right of action permitting ‎individuals to bring a civil action for alleged violations of CASL (CA$200 for each ‎contravention up to a maximum of CA$1 million each day for a violation of the ‎provisions addressing unsolicited electronic messages). However, the private right of ‎action is not yet in force, and there is currently little expectation that it will ever come into force.‎

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