Canadian Law for Online Businesses: Resources and Tools

All Canadian laws and regulations that apply to offline retail (and other types of businesses) will still apply online, along with a few more. There are many variables that make it difficult to provide legal advice that applies to everyone.

Additionally, laws are constantly changing and evolving, especially when it comes to a relatively new sales environment like the internet. These changes could apply to anything from business registration to privacy to taxes.

Rather than provide specific legal advice (which you should never take from the internet), we’ve included reliable resources so you know where to go for the latest, accurate information. You may find the answer on these official websites, or you can contact them with your questions. Please consult with a lawyer and accountant who is familiar with online business as soon as you are able.

Disclosure: I am not a lawyer and this article should not be taken as legal advice. The information contained herein is my understanding of the topic at hand at the time of this post.

Canadian Law for Online Businesses

The Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) is based on the 10 fair information principles to protect personal information. By following these principles, you will contribute to building trust in your business and in the digital economy.

The principles are:

  1. Accountability
  2. Identifying Purposes
  3. Consent
  4. Limiting Collection
  5. Limiting Use, Disclosure, and Retention
  6. Accuracy
  7. Safeguards
  8. Openness
  9. Individual Access
  10. Challenging Compliance

The biggest challenge to PIPEDA compliance for online businesses is data storage. The personal information of Canadians must be stored on Canadian soil or they have to be notified that it isn’t. The simplest way to ensure compliance now and in the future, is to make sure your website host has servers/data centres on Canadian soil. Please read Canadian Website Hosts and the Legal Reasons to Use Them for more information.

The Government of Canada covers income tax, GST/HST, payroll, business numbers and customs rates.

Business Insurance for online businesses isn’t much different than it would be for an offline business, but you may wish to add coverage for shipping.

Trade Commissioner E-commerce Requirements and Regulations acknowledges that complexity intensifies with different currencies, varied hosting options, and offshore manufacturing and warehousing. Trade Commissioners located worldwide can assist your company as you navigate the local business environment in a particular market.

Global Affairs Canada’s Export and Brokering Handbook includes how to obtain the necessary permits for the export or transfer of controlled items, how to comply with the requirements of the Export and Import Permits Act and its related regulations, and Customs procedures (Canada Border Services Agency).

CRA Ecommerce describes how to report internet business activities, including self-employed individuals, as well as the Capital Cost Allowance.

Email Marketing Law in Canada

Canadian Anti-spam Legislation (CASL) requires businesses and organizations to obtain consent before sending commercial electronic messages. The best way to ensure compliance is with ‘double opt-in’ through an email platform. Subscribers must sign up and then confirm their subscription from their email address, which proves consent.

Electronic Commerce Protection Regulations (CRTC) cover information to be included in commercial electronic messages and in requests for consent.

Canadian Online Business Tools

Business license and permit regulations vary by area. To find out how to apply for a business license or permit, search for information specific to your province on the BizPal search tool. The results will include the government resources you need.

Canadian Intellectual Property Search Tool allows you to easily search the Canadian Intellectual Property databases for trademarks, copyrights, goods & services and industrial designs.

Canadian Patents Database Search Tool

Canadian Law for Online Businesses Updates

The Canada Gazette is the official newspaper of the Government of Canada. You can learn about new statutes, new and proposed regulations, administrative board decisions and public notices.

We’ll update this post as more resources and tools become available to Canadian online business owners. Please follow us on social media or subscribe to our newsletter to be notified of the latest updates.


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Assistant Editor at Online Business Canada | Website | + posts

Marie has an M.Sc. in Marketing and a certificate from the Ryerson Digital Media program. She's enrolled in one course or another most of the time and is always in the middle of a new business book (or three). Marie enjoys writing, traveling and volunteering at local events & trade shows.

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It’s crazy how little people know about starting a biz in Canada like legalities. Thanks for the resources!!