CASL: Already 85 000 complaints filed at the CRTC

CASL, the new Canadian Anti-Spam Law came into force on July 1st. CASL is enforced by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, the Competition Bureau and the Privacy Commissioner of Canada. CASL regulates all commercial electronic messages (or “CEM”), which are messages that include among their purposes, the encouragement of participation in a commercial activity.

It was announced last Friday that, by the end of August, the CRTC had received close to 85 000 complaints.

The bad news (for businesses) is that clearly, individuals are annoyed with spam and are therefore motivated to file a complaint against organizations which are not acting in compliance with CASL. The good news (again, for businesses) is that if there are so many complaints filed, the CRTC may not have the internal resources to manage and process all these claims, potentially allowing for a little more time for businesses to modify their systems and business practices in order to ensure that they comply with CASL.

When can an individual file a complaint?

A complaint may be filed by a recipient because the organization sending a CEM has not properly identified itself in a CEM, because the organization did not have the proper consent (express or implied) prior to contacting a recipient, or because it did not include an unsubscribe mechanism.

Prioritizing complaints?

If I was the CRTC and needed to prioritize which complaints to process, I would probably focus on: i) CEM which do not include unsubscribe mechanisms; or ii) unsubscribe requests which have been ignored by organizations (within the 10 days prescribed delay). This would allow organizations for more time to ensure that the necessary email footers are in place in their CEM, that their systems are properly tracking consent information, that their consent forms have been reviewed, that they have determined their social media strategy and how this may be impacted by CASL, etc..

Next main challenge: Complying with CASL on social media

In my recent interview on this topic (in French only), I discuss the fact that complying with CASL on social media can be a challenge. It is not always clear how this law should apply to the different social media websites such as LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. and to the different ways of sending CEM or contacting users via these websites. Although the CRTC has addressed some of the general issues in its FAQs, there are still many uncertainties on how to translate the anti-spam legal framework into compliant social media activities.


This content has been updated on September 2, 2014 at 9 h 05 min.