Marketing Laws Every Large and Small Business Owner Should Know

The European Union’s General Data Protection Act, rolled out earlier this year, is a big step forward in consumer privacy protection. The United States enacted similar regulations through the CAN-SPAM Act in 2003. Both actions created new laws regulating marketing and consumer data. Companies of all sizes, including small businesses, need to keep these laws in mind when developing their online marketing strategy going forward.

The European Union’s General Data Protection Act (GDPR)

The GDPR laws became official on May 25, 2018; however, a generous grace period allows companies to obtain the required consent and bring their business into compliance. Fines will not be issued as long as a good-faith effort is being made to attain compliance. Once fully implemented non-compliant companies can face fines as large as 20 million euros or 4% of the company’s gross annual income, whichever amount is higher. Detailed information related to compliance requirements can be acquired by visiting the GDPR website.

  • Permission for storage and use of a consumer’s data must be explicitly granted, and records of consent kept on file
  • Consumers must be able to have their data removed from use at any time. Instructions to request removal must be made available to consumers
  • Consumers must be informed exactly what personal data is stored in the company’s records and how it will be used
  • Consumers must be informed of any data breach within 72 hours of discovery
  • Consumer consent must be explicitly granted before using the customer’s e-mail address for any purpose
  • E-mail addresses that were collected previously must have the proper permissions on record or permission must be obtained before they may be used for future messages

The United States’ CAN-SPAM Act

The United States CAN-SPAM Act of 2003 regulates the use of consumer data in much the same way as the GDPR but focuses primarily on e-mail marketing and deterring egregious abuses like spam and phishing scams.

Non-compliance with these guidelines can get costly fast, with each e-mail in violation of the CAN-SPAM Act subject to penalties up to $41,484. The key regulations are listed here so you can run a quick check-up assessment of your company’s compliance.

  • Make sure your e-mails to consumers are clearly and accurately labeled with proper “from,” “to,” and “reply to” information
  • Subject lines must accurately reflect the e-mail’s core content
  • Every e-mail must feature the current postal address of the sender’s business
  • An easy opt-out option must be included in every message, and opt-out requests must be honored within ten days of receipt
  • Businesses may not charge a fee for data removal, and may not require personal information from the consumer to honor the request
  • Customer data, including e-mail address, may not be sold to a third-party without consent

US companies with customers in the EU must ensure their company is in compliance with both sets of laws. Even if your company does not market outside the US, it may still be wise to assess your company’s compliance status with the regulations of both the GDPR and the CAN-SPAM acts to ensure your company has solid legal standing today and is prepared for a global market in the future.

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EEOC Guidelines Every Employer Needs to Know About

The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission is the government agency in charge of governing individual equal employment rights within the workplace in the United States. They handle complaints from workers who feel they have been discriminated against for any specific reason that falls under the scope of the law. All employers are not covered by this law, with those maintaining fewer than 20 employees who work less than 20 weeks in a two-year period not being required to follow the guidelines. All other employers are covered by the law and are required to meet the standards set forth regarding discrimination based on certain criteria. It is important to understand that the Equal Pay Act and the EEOC guidelines are not the same legislation, as all employers will be impacted by equal pay discrimination claims. The Equal Pay Act can also cover denial for promotions, and problems covered by both pieces of legislation could result in additional legal action when complaints are filed. For the most part, the individual equal rights standards address discrimination associated with:

  • Race and Nationality
  • Religion
  • Gender
  • Age
  • Disability


Human Resources Training

One of the best methods of ensuring the EEOC guidelines are followed is to train all employees that harassment is a central component to many discrimination violations, which is also a problem that has been highlighted socially in the past decade. Mistreatment of targeted employees can be done by other employees and individuals in the work environment in addition to actions by the employer. Having a well-designed and trained human resources department can establish company attention to problems that could result in a discrimination claim if there was no program in practice. It also brings awareness among the employees who are charged with helping maintain a discrimination-free environment at work.

Harassment Prevention

Because all co-workers are included in discrimination protection, it is vital for all employers to have a stated policy regarding what is considered harassment. Company rules should be spelled out in a distinct language that communicates to all employees what is expected for compliance with EEOC regulations. Holding short classes with all employees can matter as well because it helps provide additional documentation that an employer understands the potential problems, along with the fact that employees have been notified regarding proper behavior at work, including sexual harassment issues.

Common High-Value Settlements

One of the major disadvantages of being sued for discrimination, especially for government agencies, is that the case is determined by a preponderance of the material evidence instead the reasonable doubt standard that is applied in criminal situations. Even the fact that the claim was filed can be a determining factor because it presents a scenario of some kind of problem regardless of the actual claim. Other violations could be uncovered as well in testimony. The scrutiny standard for companies is a rational basis evaluation for reasonable action, but government agency cases are often assessed according to intermediate or strict scrutiny standard. Small details can matter, and having reliable, and experienced legal counsel or small business attorney is vital for an equitable settlement with a claimant.


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7 Legal Mistakes that Small Business Owners Should Avoid

Developing good business habits early on will eliminate costly mistakes that threaten the long-term health of your business. Avoiding these common legal missteps will safeguard your business from financial setbacks, lawsuits, and unscrupulous business practices. #1 — Ignoring Key Details Do not skip legal details that are critical to your success. Stay on top of […]

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