Anti-spam law could mean headaches for small businesses

Small businesses that use e-mail for marketing and promotions are being urged to get ready for new anti-spam rules taking effect July 1.Requirements-and-Enforcement-of-CASL

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation, or CASL, is believed to be the toughest law of its kind in the world. It is aimed at cracking down on phishers, identity thieves, and the sheer volume of unwanted e-mail that clogs inboxes daily.

Legal experts and business groups worry that mom-and-pop shops could unwittingly find themselves in breach of the law if they don’t take steps to protect themselves.

Under the new law, businesses will no longer be able to send commercial electronic communications — including e-mail and text messages — unless they can prove they have the consent of the recipient. That means that companies who regularly send out such communications must ask their clients and customers for permission to continue doing so before the July 1 deadline.

It also means that all commercial e-mail communications sent by businesses must contain an “unsubscribe” button. Failing to honour unsubscribe requests will become an offence under the new legislation.

There are exceptions to the new rules. For example, if a company has an existing business relationship with a client, it is allowed to continue to send that client messages for up to two years after the deal has concluded.

For a business that violates the law, the potential consequences are huge. The legislation comes with a maximum penalty of $1 million for an individual and $10 million for an organization. Class action lawsuits will also become possible in 2017.