Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation and Spektrix

Dave McNamara
Dave McNamara
  • Updated

This article offers best practice guidance on how to comply with Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL). It is relevant to anyone sending emails which may be received by recipients in Canada, and to all organizations based there.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation

In 2014, Canada introduced anti-spam legislation (CASL) designed to protect consumers and businesses from misuse of digital technology and to reinforce best practice. Businesses needed to be compliant by 2017. The legislation covers not only organizations sending emails from within Canada, but also organizations sending emails that are received by anyone in Canada, regardless of the sender’s location.

There are a few simple things you can do to ensure that Spektrix is set up to support your approach to CASL - but we strongly recommend taking your own legal advice before committing to any decision regarding CASL.

TIP: While all marketing communications have to comply with CASL, there are other non-marketing messages that don’t. Key information about a customer’s purchase, for example a confirmation email or notification of an event cancellation, is not covered by CASL and you won’t need consent to contact customers in those cases.


Consent is at the heart of CASL and is clearly defined by two types: express consent and implied consent.

Express consent

Express consent means that someone has explicitly agreed to receive messages from you, verbally, digitally or in writing. You should be clear about what you are seeking consent for when you request it. Express consent does not have a time limit, unless consent is withdrawn.

Customers will always be asked for explicit consent when they first create an account or make a purchase, and have the opportunity to withdraw this consent at any time. As a result, you may find that you only need to base your compliance upon explicit consent, keeping your customers fully in control of their preferences.

Implied consent

Implied consent can be used in certain circumstances, but is time limited. Existing business relationships, such as a ticket or membership purchase or receiving a donation, allow for implied consent under CASL. Implied consent is time limited to two years after purchase for tickets and donations, and two years after its expiry for a membership.

WARNING: It is important to maintain records of how you obtained either type of consent, because the onus is on the sender to prove this.

CASL is designed to promote and encourage best practice email marketing; it is not designed to catch businesses out. Whilst the legislation treats both express consent and implied consent as a legitimate basis for contacting customers, you should always think about what is in the best interests of your customers.

Spektrix and Express consent

Spektrix Contact Preferences allow you to seek consent from, and manage express consent for, all your customers.

You can set up as many Contact Preferences as you like in Spektrix. Customers have the choice of selecting one or more of these depending on how they would like to interact with your organisation.

There are three ways in which customers can select their Contact Preferences:

  1. When creating an account with you, either online or via the box office
  2. When processing a transaction with you, either online or via a member of the box office team (who will be prompted for a response to any Contact Preferences the customer has not responded to previously)
  3. When viewing their account online, where they can modify and update their responses to Contact Preferences

WARNING: CASL specifically states that obtaining express consent can only be done through opt-in consent mechanisms - not opt-out. Make sure your contact preferences are not set to be selected by default.

You can use Contact Preferences in Customer Lists to ensure that you are only sending emails to customers who have provided express consent. We recommend you always use a Global Segment to ensure that all users are meeting the same criteria in their Customer Lists.

NOTE: Because explicit consent is not time limited, you should not need to include ‘when’ consent was granted in your Segments.

Express consent best practice

The following principles reinforce best practice for express consent:

  1. Be clear on what the customer is agreeing to within your Contact Preference statement - think about providing some extra detail to reassure your customers about what they are signing up to
  2. Collect extra preferences (for example, preferences around performance genre) as additional Tags on the Customer Record. This will allow customers to control the kinds of information they receive without affecting their overall consent
  3. Customers should be able to withdraw consent at any point. Dotdigital emails will always give the option to unsubscribe, which will also update their preferences in Spektrix. Providing a link to a My Account section of your website will also allow customers to update their preferences

The Customer List Builder and Customer List Explorer will allow you to identify customers who have an existing business relationship with you which falls within the permitted time frame. Or, put another way, those whose past purchases and memberships fall within the two year period of implied consent.

You can find the Customer List tools in Control Panel > Insights & Mailings > Customer Lists

If you are using implied consent, then including the Weeks since Last Purchase metric in your Customer Lists will include customers with a recent purchase. To create or edit a report which will show you which customers have purchased tickets within the past two years, follow these steps:

  1. Create or edit a Customer List in Customer List Builder
  2. Select New Local Segment
  3. Give your segment a name and select the Customer option
  4. Click on the Customers wrapper
  5. Drag the Wks Since Last Order metric into the dotted area
  6. Use parameters Wks Since Last Order is between 0 and 104



You can also use other Segments to target different types of item purchases, further enhancing the focus of your email communications.