Canada’s Anti-Spam Act, known as CASL, has been in force since July 2014. The law protects consumers and businesses from the misuse of digital technology, including spam and other electronic threats.
CASL applies to “commercial electronic messages” (email, text, social media) that contain a solicitation. As such, CASL does not apply to legitimate market and survey research. This has been unequivocally stated by the federal government:
CASL therefore helps ensure better conditions for online research, as it reduces the number of spam and marketing emails that Canadians receive. It also helps distinguish real research from “mugging” and “sugging” emails – “Marketing Under the Guise of Research” and “Soliciting Under the Guise of Research.”
Initially, there were questions as to whether CASL would apply to the offer of an incentive to participate in a research project. The CRTC pronounced itself on this topic (Compliance and Enforcement Decision CRTC 2016-107), and officially recognized that incentives are a legitimate practice in research. It also stated that incentives are permissible as long as the sole purpose is to incent participation in a specific survey. In this respect, the Commission noted that researchers should exercise caution when offering incentives, to ensure that what they offer cannot be seen as unduly promoting a product or service.