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This week’s blog has a different angle than my other blogs…it outlines the impact on Canadian small business of the new Canadian Anti-Spam legislation – it is based questions that many small business owners are having in regard to the new Canadian Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL).    This information is for both small business owners and consumers/internet users (which is essentially everyone!).

This law is something that consumers and internet users have wanted for a long time – Canadian small business owners, not so much.   As a business consultant some of my small business clients have been asking “how do I market and inform my clients of my services within this new legislation”.

Please note that the information provided here is neither intended to be a comprehensive review nor to provide legal advice.   Readers should not act on this information without seeking professional legal advice

CASL Purpose:    To stop businesses from sending unwanted e-mail and text messages selling or promoting their products or services.   CASL applies to all commercial electronic messages (CEM) sent by any medium (e-mail, fax, text message, Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc.)

Businesses and organizations must be compliant with this new legislation by July 1, 2014.   Canada is the last G20 country to implement this legislation.  The benefit of this legislation to consumers and internet users is clear – less spam, less unwanted/unsolicited e-mails clogging up your inbox.

1. What types of businesses or organizations does this law impact?

  • For profit, not for profit, associations
  • Small, medium, large organizations
  • Sole proprietors, partnerships, corporations
  • Exception for registered charities but only for communication related to fundraising or associations communicating with members

2. How does the law impact Canadian small business or organizations?

  • Business owners and leaders will need to prove they have consent to reach out to new, existing or potential customers using e-mail or other electronic forms of communication (including tweets).
  • Owners or managers must have consent to communicate with prospects and clients electronically
  • This impacts how organizations will market their products or services to potential clients and build awareness

3. As a Canadian small business owner or leader – how do I get consent?

  • Consent can be written or verbal
  • For electronic consent (e-mail) – clients and customers need to be contacted prior to July 1 and opt-on to receive electronic communication.
  • After July 1 it will be an offence to contact a client or prospect electronically to ask them to opt-in…they will need to be contacted by phone or regular ‘old fashioned’ mail
  • Consent can be implied through an existing business situation but this consent ends 2 years after the relationship ends).  The business has to be able to provide the relationship and its end date.

4. What happens if my business or organization does not comply?

  • Penalties for each offence are severe – they can be up to $1 million for an individual or up to $10 million for a company.

5. What do I do now as Canadian small business?Canadian Small Business Anti Spam Legislation

  • Review electronic communication, marketing and consent policies
  • Obtain legal advice on CASL
  • Read and understand the legislation
  • Obtain consent from as many prospects as possible prior to July 1, 2014
  • Work with a business consultant or coach to do an impact analysis and develop new strategies and methods for marketing and communicating with prospects

Canadian small business owners that rely on e-mail communication for marketing are going to have to find new low cost ways of communicating with prospects and customers.

The marketing company Elite Email has published a free online CASL Survival Guide which is a great resource for for-profit and not-for-profit organizations.

For those interested – click here for the full text of the Canadian CASL law.