Starting July 1, Canada will finally be the last of the G20 countries to enact tough anti-spam legislation, in the form of the CASL (link to Gov’t of Canada site describing the law.) Some small businesses, however, are concerned that the new law goes too far in restricting the abilities of companies to reach out to new potential customers or clients through the world’s most common digital communication platform.

The new legislation has many people scrambling to get ‘permission’ from people to send them emails, and others trying to figure out if the law applies to the way they send emails, but mostly business owners are in the dark and completely unaware that they could face major financial penalties for doing what they assumed was a normal part of their marketing work – simply sending out an “email blast” to people who’s card they picked up at that trade-show or who’s contact info they got from a directory, etc. Penalties are up to $1 million for individuals or $10 million for businesses!

The Globe and Mail has a good story where they describe the law, the confusion, and what it means for small business owners.

“Businesses selling or promoting products or services will need to prove they have consent to reach out to new, existing and potential customers using electronic messages, a list that includes tweets.”

Further content from the Globe & Mail’s article worth noting:

How can you get consent? It can be implied through an existing business relationship, but that implied consent ends two years after the business deal ended. The business also has to be able to prove the deal and track the timing.

Getting consent can be written or oral. If companies want to do it electronically, through e-mail for example, they need to reach out to clients and customers by July 1 and have them opt-in. That may include having the customer check a box that says they’re willing to receive electronic communications. After July 1, this process will be an offence.

Those who don’t have consent by July 1 will need to get it through other means, such as a telephone call or old-fashioned snail mail.

There are some exemptions under the legislation, including one for registered charities, but only for fundraising activities or associations that are communicating with members.

“People haven’t realized the impact they will have on their business,” says Lloyd Longfield, president of the Guelph Chamber of Commerce, which has recently hosted a few CASL information seminars in its community.

“We are trying to bring them message home that this is something we have to hit hard and hit fast, because most businesses will find themselves out of compliance with their communications,” he says.

Mr. Longfield’s not-for-profit organization is one of those businesses that will impacted, and he is working hard to get on board with the pending new legislation and try to set an example for members. While he agrees spam is a problem, Mr. Longfield and many other businesses say they believe the government is tackling the problem the wrong way through CASL.

“Instead of cutting out spam it’s cutting out communications and it’s going to inhibit commerce and enterprise,” he argues. “It’s going to have a big impact on small businesses that use e-mails as a low-cost way of communicating with potential clients.”

The cost of non-compliance will be another huge issue. It will involve a lot of red tape that will take businesses away from their daily operations, making them less productive and competitive, Mr. Longfield adds. “Other countries don’t have to comply this way, and it’s putting small business at a disadvantage.”

Marketing company Elite Email has published a free online CASL Survival Guide that offers standard advice, as well as a few practical tips to help businesses navigate through the process. The guide even includes advice on how to handle negative emotions that may arise around the changes.

Read the full story here: