Is HubSpot violating Canada's anti-spam law?


@Lucy, please see the following document which is directly from the Canadian government website. While @Philippe_Le_Roux's company blog has a wealth of information I strongly suggest you reference the source directly; especially on matters such as this.

Express consent versus implied consent - What you need to know before sending out your commercial electronic message.

In other news, I've been in discussion with HubSpot support who is helping me get things figured out somewhat. I plan on posting my findings soon.


Hey folks,

We're hard at work on a host of updates to how we handle subscriptions and the display of the consent / opt-in status. These updates will directly address the issue mentioned above where it can appear that recipients are subscribed to things they aren't actually subscribed to (even if they won't actually get those messages). We've heard you. We're working on it.

On a very related note, here's the latest update to our GDPR efforts:



I'll ask what may seem like an oversimplified question and offer an equally 'simple' solution, but first I'd like to say thanks to @Lee for starting the original thread as well as to everyone who has contributed so far. As stated earlier, it emphasises the degree to which many smart people are struggling with compliance issues throughout the world. So let's get to it ..

An Oversimplified Question
Aren't ALL HubSpot Marketing Email Types just various forms of marketing emails? (rhetorical)

An Oversimplified Solution
Reduce the number of HubSpot Marketing 'Email Types' used in your portal.
We use two -- e.g.,

  1. Marketing
  2. Blog Subscriptions (only if applicable).

Using any more than this only serves to confuse subscribers and (sometimes more importantly) unsubscribers about an already overly complicated issue.

Oversimplified Rationale
If marketers, developers, and implementers of these complex systems are confused by their use it's safe to say that email recipients are at least just as confused. Problem? When we're confused we typically don't hit the "SPAM" button.

I fear that abuse complaint rates will rise increasingly and in direct proportion to our lack of clarity around the use of these advanced platforms (not just HubSpot).

Finally, and in a rare case when I make a comment in 'defense' of a corporation, I don't think it's fair to say that HubSpot is responsible for facilitating CASL or GDPR violations simply because of the confusion around HubSpot Marketing Email Types and simply because the platform may allow accidental &/or unintended use. The page cited, although in desperate need of better examples (hint ... hint ...), explicitly states that email types are for marketing emails in our marketing portal which by definition and implication means 'marketing emails'.

Attempting to hold HubSpot accountable for our violation of CASL or GDPR just doesn't pass the reasonableness test. He11, if we could hold a corporation responsible for our unintended misuse of its products/services I think the gun manufacturers would've been in trouble long ago. haha (not intended to make light of a very serious issue)

Thanks again all. Very thought provoking and informative thread.



Hi @MFJLabs, thanks for weighing in. I'm not sure I completely understand your solution. Here is what we want to accomplish. I'm interested in seeing how you would implement the following:

Here at Focus on the Family Canada, we have four primary content categories; Marriage, Parenting, Life Challenges, and Faith and Culture. I liken this to the structure of a newspaper with its various sections. Our audience varies widely and we feel it's not the best option to send marriage info to those who aren't married, and parenting info to those without children.

We also have content that does touch multiple groups; fundraising emails, important announcements, events, etc. Our current list structure (in another email service provider) looks like this:

  • Infolettre Garder Le Focus (for our Francophone audience)

  • Focus on Pastors (Information relevant to church staff)

  • Focus on Faith and Culture (Current events)

  • Waiting to Belong (Families wanting to foster/adopt)

  • Focus on Parenting (Self explanatory)

  • Focus on Marriage (Self explanatory)

  • Focus on the Family Canada Updates (fundraising, important announcements, events, etc)

Taking this entire thread into account, how do you propose we structure our overall email system?

P.S. Thanks to you as well @tom_monaghan for the status update.


Hey @Lee,
Thanks for your question. Didn't go back and re-read this entire thread ... best I can remember it was more focused on CASL.

Regarding your question ("How would I ...") and the above list segments withstanding for Focus on the Family Canada, I'm inclined to stand by my original statement and expand a little.

I've posted a comprehensive response (with an example) in the HubSpot Community Forum where you'll also be able to upvote the discussion submitted as an Idea a year ago (as you pointed out earlier i think). It's listed as, "Opt users out of certain email types".

Hope it helps and thanks again for your question.


As an email deliverability consultant at HubSpot here are my two cents. When you create an email you will always set one email type. There is a 1:1 relationship there. For this reason, lists have always been a better way to segment based on interest. I think this thread covers this pretty well.

As a general rule of thumb when naming email types, describe the content of the email, and not the type of contact who will receive it. Ie. ‘fundraising emails’, ‘important announcements’, ‘events’ are your email types; and ‘Parenting’, ‘Marriage’, ‘Pastors’ are your lists based on interest.

In line with MFJLabs22d proposed solution, there are often far fewer email types than interest categories. This allows for contacts who are interested in multiple things (contacts married with children) to be sent emails targeted to that interest-combo.

In the past, here is how I’ve advised customers to proceed if they’ve set up email types tied to non-mutually exclusive groups:

  1. Add an unchecked checkbox to forms to allow contacts to expressly consent.
  2. Rename your email types so that they are mutually exclusive groups that describe the different types of content.
  3. Create lists of contacts based on what they are interested in. One list for A, one for B...
  4. Add the lists above as Included lists for your automated emails.
  5. Create a form to allow recipients to specify their interest(s)
  6. (Optional) Include a link to that form somewhere in future emails.

At this point, it is probably more wise to await release of our changes to subscriptions, than to implement the above, but thought I would drop it in here in case it could be useful.