Canada's new anti-spam law has now received royal assent and will begin to take effect on July 1, 2014.

The law is broad and the penalties for non-compliance are very steep. Virtually every person and business in Canada will be affected by the law and will need to rethink how they send emails, voicemails and other telecommunications.

Here are some highlights:

  • The law prohibits any person from sending (or causing or permitting to be sent) a commercial electronic message unless the recipient expressly or implicitly consents to receiving the message.
  • The definition of "commercial electronic message" is very broad and includes any message sent by telecommunications (including e-mail, text messages, voicemail, social media communications, etc.) if the purpose of that message is to encourage participation in a commercial activity.
  • Commercial electronic messages cannot be sent without the recipients' consent. Consent can be express or implied, and there are specific rules for how to obtain consent. There are some limited exceptions to the consent requirement.
  • All commercial electronic messages must identify the person who sent the message (and if different, the person on whose behalf it was sent); provide accurate contact information for these parties; and sent out by a mechanism through which the recipient may unsubscribe.
  • The recipient must be able to unsubscribe using the same means by which the message was sent. There are specific rules and time limits for complying with unsubscribe requests.
  • The maximum penalty for a violation of the legislation is $1,000,000 for an individual and $10,000,000 for a corporation or other business entity. These fines are imposed per violation, and a violation is defined as being separate for each day that it continues.
  • Violations under the Act create both direct and vicarious liability, and directors or officers of corporations may be personally liable for the corporation's violations. Employers are also liable for violations committed by their employees acting within the scope of their employment.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.