Selling in Facebook Messenger? You May Be Breaking The Law.


If you’re anything like me, you may have noticed a sales message or two sneaking their way into your Facebook Messenger Inbox lately. I’m not talking about ad placements (in case you haven’t noticed, Facebook is now advertising within your Messenger feed).

What I’m referring to is a contact, usually a Facebook friend, connecting in the effort to sell you something. Perhaps the ask is to book a home party, purchase their product or service, or solicit from you in some other way. In some cases, this may be the only Messenger conversation you’ve ever had with this contact.

We’ve all received a message or ten like this. Maybe you’ve even sent one!  It wasn’t until recently, when a client was about to use this tactic to sell to their audience that I took a step back and cleared up any confusion surrounding Messenger as a tactic. This practice is not only spammy and transactional, it also happens to be illegal.

It's The Law?

Those of us who have been digital marketers for some time will remember two distinct eras in Canada. Pre-2014, the Wild West of email marketing  and post-2014, the era of signups, consent and unsubscribe options. The line between these eras is highlighted by the introduction of CASL (Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation) in 2014.

As a consumer, I am incredibly grateful that CASL exists to protect my inbox & digital life from endless sales messages (imagine just how much SPAM we would experience without it). As a marketer, it’s my responsibility to understand the limitations and protections implied therein for both my own business and for my clients.  

What may come as a surprise to many people is that selling in Facebook Messenger constitutes a violation of CASL. Frankly,  unsolicited Messenger pitches are no different than sending unsolicited sales emails and can be subject to massive fines.   

CASL regulates what publishers are allowed to  do with regard to CEMs (Commercial Electronic Messages). A CEM is generally defined as an electronic message that encourages participation in a commercial activity (ie. Buy my stuff). Most of us are aware that emails are CEMs when sent from a business to clients but we forget that CEMs also happen to exist on other digital messaging channels.

When it comes to social media, public posts are generally not considered CEMs however private messaging a sales message puts you at risk of a CASL violation. Here are our guidelines when it comes to Facebook specifically and CASL CEMs.

Usually Not A CEM

  • Status updates (posts on your own timeline)

  • Inviting to like page

  • Stories

May Be A CEM

  • Posting on another person’s timeline

  • Tagging

Always A CEM

  • Facebook Messenger messages


Given that open rates in Messenger are hovering around 80-90%, what’s a savvy marketer to do to capitalize on this high performing channel?

Enter Facebook Messenger Bots. has a great blog post about all of the benefits of Messenger bots. If you’re looking for a way to optimize your conversions through Messenger, we recommend that you check it out.

When it comes to CASL however, the great genius in Messenger bots is that they initiate an opt-in which, in CASL terms, constitutes express consent and a requirement of compliant CEMs.

Rule of Thumb

When it comes to how you communicate with your audience, please always consider consent. Has your audience agreed to receive your messages via the forum that you’re using? Are you respecting their digital space and limited attention and time? Hopping into Messenger with a sales pitch can feel a lot like the digital equivalent of showing up at someone’s door at dinner time.

Are you building a long-term relationship or chasing a quick transaction?

Selling people without their consent will almost always guarantee no chance of that long-term relationship.

Do you know someone who is selling in Messenger? Feel free send this post their way and give them a heads-up!

As always, take a step back and check your WHY.

**Please note that we are not lawyers nor can we provide legal advice. If you have questions about CASL compliance, we always recommend a discussion with your attorney 

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