With less than four weeks to go ‘til the holidays, businesses across Canada are gearing up for their annual “Season’s Greetings” email blitz to their clients. Such electronic messages have, for enterprises big and small, become the new norm when it comes to extending a little seasonal goodwill and cheer … and, of course, gratitude for their custom.

But thanks to Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL), many of these same businesses are feeling a little nervous whether sending these seasonal emails will break the rules and possibly lead to a hefty fine. The problem? Simply put, there’s a lot of ambiguity as to whether such messages in fact serve a promotional purpose rather than just the heartfelt greetings they’re intended to communicate.

In the end, it all boils down to interpretation. While we know CASL stipulates that senders must have the recipient’s consent before firing off a commercial electronic message (CEM), there are in fact exemptions that could be construed to suggest that these seasonal greetings might not constitute spam.

Addressing the dilemma

Fortunately for those of us without the time or inclination to try to figure these things out for ourselves, an excellent attempt at addressing this dilemma appeared recently courtesy of the Canadian online legal magazine, Slaw. In their November 24th column, Wishing You Happy Holidays… if Canada’s Anti-Spam Law Permits, writers Martin Kratz and Graeme Harrison provide an excellent summary of the potential problem, along with various interpretations that indicate that CASL might not prove so Scrooge-like this time of year after all.

The following are just a few key suggestions to consider before hitting the old send button:

Keep your message simple, and seasonal

  • Avoid solicitations to participate in any form of commercial activity, whether it’s an invitation to an event or a promotion
  • Use only up-to-date mailing lists where consent has already been provided by the recipients; if you’re still feeling uneasy, include only those recipients you or your team know personally through business relationships
  • Always include an unsubscribe mechanism
  • Do your due diligence: if in doubt, have a legal expert review your message – they’ll reassure you whether it satisfies all required CASL formalities and disclosures

And if after all that you’re still not feeling too comfortable about sending your seasonal best wishes electronically… well, there’s always snail mail.

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