What are Commercial Electronic Messages (CEM)?

For information on Customer Experience Management (CXM), click here. The definition of commercial electronic messages (CEM) includes all electronic messages (email, SMS) that are sent by organizations with commercial intent. With the implementation of anti-spam laws in Canada, the definitions of legal requirements for Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) and other compliance standards include this terminology relating to communications, often referred to in documentation as CEMS. For more information by the CRTC on CASL compliance check the official FAQ.

Any commercial messages must be sent to a valid electronic address to fall under Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) to meet compliance. Some items that are considered CEMs but fall out of the scope of CASL include messages being routed through Canada, SMS sent for roaming, or social media communications from organizations with a clear EULA and terms of use.

CEMs cover all telecommunications sent for the purposes of encouraging commercial activity, regardless of whether there is an expectation of profit. This includes an offer to purchase or sell goods, services, business opportunities, or promotions that advertise any of the aforementioned offers.

CEM Includes:

  • Instant messages
  • Email
  • SMS
  • Text messages
  • Messages to telephone accounts
  • Any electronic message requesting consent to receive further electronic messages

Family Considerations

When sending Commercial Electronic Messages (CEM) to members of your family the CASL requirements are no longer applied. How ridiculous would it be to request a sibling to provide an unsubscribe mechanism for texting? This includes any relationships related through common law or voluntary communication between two individuals.

Core Components of CASL Compliant Messages

  • The ability to opt-out, unsubscribe or request an organization from ceasing any future communications
  • Provide identity, contact details, phone number, mailing address, email, and process to contact an agent of the organization requesting user consent
    • This includes any third-party partners
    • The information must be up to date and reliable
    • Exemptions can be made (such as communications with existing relationships, complaints, inquiries, or legal obligations)

CASL Updated Exemptions

  • CEMs used by political parties seeking contributions
  • Limited-access, confidential secure portals (i.e banking confirmation)
  • Registered Non-Profits using CEMs for the primary purpose of charity fundraising
  • Instant Message, Social Media, SaaS platforms that use SMS, and e-mail communications with clear EULA that outline the terms of use

Application of CEMs on Average Website

The lawfulness principle ensures that personal data processing activities are communicated to data subjects in an open and honest manner. Building an eCommerce website that is designed without user accessibility or GDPR compliance in mind can be an expensive mistake. Taking into consideration CASL, AODA, or other compliance challenges when processing CEMs can impact the strategies used in marketing campaigns to avoid legal liabilities. Some good CEM guidelines are:

  • Always Have Consent of the Data Subject
  • Disclose the Organization or a Third Party Requesting Consent
  • Provide opt-out, unsubscribe feature to avoid legal action

Compliance Requirements for CASL

In order to establish a standard of anti-spam and privacy law, personal data must be processed responsibly and demonstrate compliance with EU and member state data protection laws. As telecommunications processes become more integrated in daily life, unsolicited CEMs can result in more than just technical debt. The legal requirements of businesses marketing in Canada are too complicated to overlook. Understanding what types of business is exempt, what CEMs are not included in CASL and how to avoid compliance penalities requires a strong marketing partner.

Looking for help with compliance? Contact our team for affordable help.