Small businesses trying to deal with new anti-spam laws

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is warning its members who are using email to generate sales, no matter how small scale, that they need to be aware of new anti-spam legislation.

New legislation applies to all commercial email

P.E.I. musician Teresa Doyle is concerned about how anti-spam legislation will affect her reaching out to her fans. (CBC)

The Canadian Federation of Independent Business is warning its members who are using email to generate sales, no matter how small scale, that they need to be aware of new anti-spam legislation.

The law came into effect on July 1, and primarily targets emails sent for commercial purposes.

Anyone sending commercial email needs to be concerned with new anti-spam legislation, says Erin McGrath-Gaudet, P.E.I. director for the Canadian Federation of Independent Business. (CBC)

Erin McGrath-Gaudet, P.E.I. director for CFIB, said a recent survey of its members found most were either unaware of or confused about the new law.

"Some of the key questions are, 'Does it even apply to me? I'm a small business, I have very limited communication, I don't purchase lists, I'm not spamming people, does it even apply to me?' And of course the answer to that is yes," said McGrath-Gaudet.

"It's going to apply to all email communications that are sent out for commercial purposes."

It's not just an issue for small businesses. P.E.I. musician Teresa Doyle keeps an email list that she has gathered at shows over years of performing, and often emails them to let them know about upcoming shows or new recordings.

"I've been performing for decades, so when email came in I started collecting people's emails," said Doyle.

"It's really important to me to get the word out, especially when I'm touring."

Jennifer Ridgway, owner of Moonsnail Soapworks, is concerned she could lose a third of her contact list. (CBC)

But the new anti-spam law may reduce the number of people she can reach out to. Just as small businesses and large corporations are now required to do, she must obtain express consent before sending commercial emails.

In downtown Charlottetown, Jennifer Ridgway, owner of Moonsnail Soapworks, has an email list of 2,800 addresses she sends a newsletter to three or four times a year.

"For us it's incredibly effective, because we can have links right on there to the specific part of the webpage with those products," said Ridgway.

"We can highlight new products, give discounts."

Ridgway is concerned when she sends out a consent letter, many of the people on her list might choose to opt out.

"I could see it, at least, going down to a third," she said.

The law allows a three-year transition period, so most individuals and businesses have until 2017 to get permission to contact people.

Ridgway says she will wait for a while to try to get those permissions. She's hoping her request to her contacts doesn't get lost in the wave of similar requests in her customers' inboxes.

The CFIB is continuing to offer assistance to its members to help them comply with the law.


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