CASL strikes Canadian inboxes: 5 strange and unique requests for consent

If you haven’t heard of Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) by now, then you’re pretty good at filtering out email. The new law that went into effect July 1 has many businesses blasting out emails to their list of recipients asking for permission to continue communications.

The reason, as many of those emails explain, is that CASL requires that a business prove it has obtained express consent from a customer before sending them a message. Just allowing someone to opt-out of getting emails isn’t good enough. Since this is a new requirement, many businesses just don’t know what customers they’ve received implied consent from as opposed to implicit consent through some other sort of business relationship.

So many Canadians might be suffering from more inbox overload than usual these days. All those consent-request emails start to blur together and look the same after awhile. It can be tempting just to not respond to any of them and look forward to a cleaner inbox in the future.

But there are some messages that stand out from the pack – they’re unique in their approach, funny, weird, or just plain bad. We’ve gathered up a few to share with you here, including our own approach to CASL.


Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 11.31.49 AM

IT-focused social networking site Spiceworks found a novel way to stand apart from all those other consent-requesting messages clogging up your inbox. It threatens to feed a real member of its email marketing team to zombies unless you opt-in to continue to receive messages.

Spiceworks tells us this isn’t specifically part of a campaign around CASL, but is a global check with users to check to make sure they’d like to receive emails. It has a policy to regularly check that its content is still relevant to user interests. That being said, the opt-in approach to continue to receive emails would meet compliance requirements under CASL.

“Zombies are a popular topic in our IT community,” explains a Spiceworks spokesperson.

You can tell there were definitely some brains behind this consent-gathering campaign.

Sharifian Salon & Spa

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 11.16.45 AM

Nothing makes you want to consent to more emails from your local spa than a pixelated banner combining patriotism with a garish colour palette and redundant grammar. It gets better from there with the bolded and italicized red text on purple background (meanwhile the grammar is not improving).

While not obviously pertaining to CASL at first, the email’s body text goes on to explain “The new Canadian anti-spam law (CASL) comes into effect on July 1st, 2014 and restricts some forms of e-communications. We value our relationship with you and would like to continue to provide you with Sharifian Salon and Spa’s Information (sic)… CASL requires us to have your consent so you can continue communicating with you electronically. In order for us to do this and for you to continue to receive correspondence or information from us by electronic communication, I am requesting your consent.”

Screen Shot 2014-07-08 at 11.24.03 AM

Unfortunately the email recipient must then take action to opt-out of receiving future emails. That’s a CASL no-no as express consent requires that one opt-in (unless you already had express consent previously). But the spa makes up for it later in the newsletter with an offer for a free manicure between July 2-14 and a 20 per cent coupon off your next hair cut.

Actionable Books

This web service that sends its subscribers summaries of business books acknowledges the annoyance of many Canadians dealing with an avalanche of CASL emails lately.


The email body text reads:

“Let’s Talk… I’m writing today because I don’t want to overstay our welcome in your inbox.” And later continues “If you look forward to reading our emails, then great – you don’t have to do a thing. You’ll continue to receive weekly emails. But if our emails make you cringe or you are 110% overwhelmed with your inbox, you can click on the button below and unsubscribe. As our buddy Bill Shakespeare says, “Parting is such sweet sorrow… Regardless of your decision, we wish you the best of luck in your battle against inbox overload. We’re in this together.” 

Unsubscribe-foreverThe email also offered recipients the option to opt-out. But since this email was specifically sent to a list of those who had already given express consent, that would be CASL compliant. As explained by Actionable Books, the email was designed to not be bothersome to its recipient while improving the open and click rates on campaigns for those who actually wanted the content.

Reader’s Digest

Reader's Digest CASLThere are few marketing tactics that are as clearly distinguishable in brand as Reader’s Digest. Anyone who’s ever been on its snail mail list will be familiar with the front-of-envelope promises of opportunities to win huge cash prizes and official-looking certificates declaring exclusivity.

Those trademarks continue in the email realm as well. This CASL consent request comes complete with a “notification certificate” that I’m for sure going to pin up on the wall next to my Journalism degree.

The text in the email does promise of great prizes ahead, but nothing immediately connected to giving your consent:

Be advised that: The Reader’s Digest 75th National Sweepstakes includes prizes from $10,000.00 to the Super Grand Prize of $100,000.00 CASH! You don’t want to miss out on a chance to win this or any other of our amazing cash prizes.” 

IT World Canada

It’s only fair to point to our own consent gathering policy when it comes to CASL legislation. As a digital media publisher that sends out various email newsletters to subscribers, sending out emails to our audience is an important part of our business and we definitely read the CASL legislation thoroughly and thought hard about the best approach to take towards compliance.

In the end we chose to not send a specific email asking for our audience’s consent again, as this is already our practice when readers opt-in to receive our newsletters. Our President Fawn Annan explains the full policy and approach in this open letter.

Have you received some strange or unique CASL emails that you thought were great, or maybe not so great? We want to hear about it. Please share in the comments below.

Would you recommend this article?


Thanks for taking the time to let us know what you think of this article!
We'd love to hear your opinion about this or any other story you read in our publication.

Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

Featured Download

Brian Jackson
Brian Jackson
Editorial director of IT World Canada. Covering technology as it applies to business users. Multiple COPA award winner and now judge. Paddles a canoe as much as possible.

Featured Story

How the CTO can Maintain Cloud Momentum Across the Enterprise

Embracing cloud is easy for some individuals. But embedding widespread cloud adoption at the enterprise level is...

Related Tech News

Get ITBusiness Delivered

Our experienced team of journalists brings you engaging content targeted to IT professionals and line-of-business executives delivered directly to your inbox.

Featured Tech Jobs