New “anti-spam” Law Confusing, Challenging for Small Business

As legislation comes into force, a survey conducted by the Canadian Federation of Independent Business (CFIB) suggests many think it doesn’t apply to them. It would be strongly advised that companies take a closer look to see whether or not they really are exempt from this new law.

Canada’s Anti-Spam Law (CASL), in force as of July 1, affects most businesses – any sending emails, text messages or messages through social media. But, according to a new member survey conducted by CFIB, only 15% of small business owners are fully aware of CASL’s requirements, and most (62%) have taken no steps to comply.

“Most small business owners don’t think of themselves as spammers,” says CFIB President Dan Kelly, “But under the new law, everyday interactions with customers and potential customers will be considered spam without a significant investment to document the right permissions.”

Among other changes, the new law will require businesses to seek consent to send business emails, keep a record of those consents, and to add an unsubscribe feature to every email message. The required technological and process changes can be significant. As an example, a small business was told it will cost them $30,000 to $50,000 to be in full compliance.

CFIB has received dozens of calls from concerned business owners who are struggling to figure out how to make their businesses viable in the new CASL world. Sadly, the support being offered by the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission (CRTC), one of the agencies responsible for enforcing CASL, has been less-than-stellar.

“Businesses support the idea of reducing spam, but everything we’re hearing suggests that the current rules need to be made small business-friendly,” notes Kelly. CFIB members support a focus on education over enforcement, and providing exemptions where these rules are not workable, for example where businesses send a relatively low volume of emails per month.

“The government has repeatedly insisted that CASL was designed to go after the worst offenders, and not the general business population,” says executive vice president Laura Jones. “Small businesses want to comply with the spirit of the law, but implementing the letter of the law will be a challenge. Clearly, more work needs to be done to make CASL work for small business.”