Canadian requirements for sending commercial SMS messages

Last updated on 18 September 2015

Canada’s anti-spam legislation (CASL), issued by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, seeks to protect Canadian consumers while enabling organisations (business, not-for-profits and charities) to compete in the marketplace. CASL defines e-marketing message as electronic commercial messages used to promote or market your organisation, products or services. SMS messaging falls under this definition of electronic commercial messages.

Key requirements:

Consent to send messages

There are two types of consent that need to be considered here. For implied consent a recipient can expect to receive an SMS message from your organisation if there is an existing business (for companies) or non-business relationship (for charities or not-for-profits) in place. Implied consent is time-limited, typically a period of 2 years after the event that starts the relationship (e.g. purchase of a good). For subscriptions or memberships, the period starts on the day the relationship ends. For express consent, there is no time-limit unless the recipient withdraws his or her consent, a recipient gave your organisation a positive or explicit indication of consent to receive SMS messages. Records of how your organisation obtained implied or express consent need to be kept, since in both cases an organisation has the onus to prove consent. These records must contain whether consent was obtained in writing or orally, when it was obtained, why it was obtained, and the manner (i.e. the opt-in mechanism) in which it was obtained.

Information to be included in SMS messages

Clearly identify the organisation sending the message and include contact information. Contact information can be provided as an URL link in the message but this needs to be prominently displayed in the SMS message.

An unsubscribe mechanism

An unsubscribe mechanism must appear in all SMS messages sent. An unsubscribe mechanism must be "readily performed.", i.e. it should be simple, quick and easy for the end-user. For example, for a marketing or promotional message sent via SMS, the user should have the choice between replying to the SMS message with the word “STOP” or “Unsubscribe”, or clicking on a link that will take the user to a web page where he or she can unsubscribe from receiving all or some types of SMS messages from your organisation.

Links to regulations and further information

The Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission has provided several resources providing information on how to ensure your SMS messaging is compliant.