Overview – Regulatory Framework

Marketing communications are regulated in Canada in accordance with several legislative frameworks and self-regulatory codes, some of which overlap.

TELEPHONE SOLICITATION, including the use of “automatic dialling-announcing devices” (or “ADADs”, also known as “robocalls”) is chiefly regulated under the Unsolicited Telecommunications Rules, which were created by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC) through authority granted under the Telecommunications Act.  That Act, which generally relates to the regulation of telecommunications service providers, empowers the CRTC to prohibit or regulate the use of telecommunications facilities for the provision of unsolicited telecommunications, to the extent that the CRTC considers necessary to prevent undue inconvenience or nuisance.  The Telecommunications Act also creates a legislative framework for a National Do Not Call List (NDNCL).

ELECTRONIC DIRECT MARKETING, including through email messages, text messages and direct social media messages, is governed by Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL), which generally prohibits the sending of “commercial electronic messages” (CEMs) – which are, essentially, messages that encourage participation in a commercial activity, including messages that generally promote a product, service, person or brand) without prior explicit consent.  CASL is also administered and enforced by the CRTC.

POSTAL DIRECT MARKETING is not subject to direct sector-specific regulation in Canada, but is the subject of self-regulatory codes and individual company policies and practices.

PRIVACY LAWS, including the federal law, the Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA), also apply to the collection, use or disclosure of personal information, including the telephone numbers used for telephone solicitation or text messaging, the email or social media addresses used for electronic direct marketing, and the postal addresses used for postal direct marketing.   Privacy laws also govern the use of electronic tracking technologies such as cookies.  Private sector privacy laws generally require individual consent for the use of personal information for any of the above activities.  Federal privacy laws are administered and enforced by the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada, and provincial privacy laws by equivalent provincial authorities.

MARKETING AND ADVERTISING CONTENT is regulated under various consumer protection laws at the federal and provincial levels, including the federal Competition Act, administered and enforced by the Commissioner of Competition.  Such content is also subject to multiple self-regulatory regimes.