E-Business Info-Guide (Alberta)

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The following Info-Guide is a document designed to help you navigate through the different programs, services and regulations which deal with E-Business, and identify those of interest. Although most of the questions will be answered in the Info-Guide, the list is by no means exhaustive. The selected items provide a helpful overview of programs, services and regulations in a related area. This blended product of both federal and provincial information is developed to answer a growing demand for strategic information by business people. Municipal and other non-government information could be included, depending on the content. Further information on these programs, services and regulations can be obtained through any of the following:

Some of the hypertext links lead to sites which are not subject to the Official Languages Act and the material is available in one language only.

The term E-Business means conducting business on the Internet, including buying and selling products and services, providing customer service and collaborating with business partners. This document focuses on buying and selling products and services on the Internet (also known as electronic business, ebiz, e-commerce, business-to-business or B2B, business-to-customer or B2C). For more general information on E-Business and the use of the Internet, please see the document Doing Business on the Internet

CONTENTS
Common Questions
Regulations
Privacy and Security
Taxation
Export Rules
Consumer Protection
Financial Assistance
Training / Information
Business with government
Related Sites

Common Questions

What is E-Business?
E-Business is any commercial activity conducted over networks linking electronic devices (mainly computers) including commercial transactions conducted by Internet, telephone and fax, electronic banking and payment systems, trade in digitized goods and services, and electronic purchasing and restocking systems.

The Internet has opened up networking to anyone with a computer and Internet access. Businesses can now climb on board the Internet, which amounts to a free electronic highway. Once you're hooked up, you can buy, sell, and connect with the people who matter to you: your own employees (in the next office or three thousand kilometers away), your suppliers, your customers, your bank accounts, your credit information services, your sources of market information, and so on.

What is the Internet?
The Internet is a global collection of networks connecting and sharing information through a common set of protocols. It allows computers attached to networks to communicate regardless of manufacturer or brand, architecture, operating system or location.

Not only does the Internet allow open communication, but many forms of communication. Voice, data and video transmissions can be carried over one infrastructure. The Internet was initially used primarily for data transmission, but telephony - voice transmission - and video transmission are growing. Another advantage of the Internet is efficiency of data transfer.

What is the World Wide Web?
Imagine the concept of a universal information database -- data that would not only be accessible to people around the world, but information that would link easily to other pieces of information. This concept is now a reality in the form of the World Wide Web (WWW).

The WWW provides links between documents, over the Internet. The Web exists because of programs which communicate between computers connected to the Internet. Utilizing a Web Browser, anyone with a computer, modem and Internet account can search and retrieve information from millions of Web Servers around the world. Some examples of Web Browsers you may be familiar with are Netscape Navigator and Microsoft Internet Explorer.

What is E-Business used for?
E-Business is not limited to certain types of businesses or just technology-related products and services. Companies in every field are doing business online. Networking through E-Business can be applied to any facet of a company's operations, including marketing and sales; purchasing and logistics; production; design and engineering. The most effective use of E-Business is when several of these functions are combined: information flows from sales to purchasing, to production.

E-Business can be used to:

  • Communicate: E-mail and Internet Access
  • Promote: Businesses are using Web pages to advise clients and potential clients about their business and its value. Web pages keep clients informed about products, services, and developments, and they provide the opportunity to answer client questions. They may also use their Web sites to solicit market research information from clients or guests who visit their site. Other uses include:
    • sales -- to sell products, seven days a week, 24 hours per day throughout the globe;
    • product awareness -- online marketing and advertising;
    • customer service -- customer support and communication;
    • economy -- to eliminate some costs of paper transactions and mailing;
    • effectiveness -- due to the speed of communication;
    • it offers the opportunity to work out of the home;
    • to compete globally without setting up offices in other countries;
    • because small companies can compete against much larger companies as no one can tell how large or young your company is based on your Internet presence;
    • to find information, conduct competitive intelligence, or network with other business owners.
  • Link
  • Internally - Improve communications within your company using an Intranet.
    Intranet: a private network inside a company or organization. Intranets are used to organize internal company operations, such as payroll and inventory.
  • Externally - Improve communications with suppliers, customers and partners and integrate your business processes using an Extranet.
  • Extranet: connecting two or more intranets, allowing communication with business partners, suppliers, distributors or customers
  • Creating New Business Models: Sharing resource with new partners to create virtual global enterprises. The Net has the potential to act as a central nervous system coordinating the business activities of new type of corporate organisms.
    • set up an arrangement whereby sales information is shared instantaneously with wholesalers, shippers, manufacturers, designers, and even suppliers of raw material.

If I don't want to sell electronically, why use E-Business? What are the benefits?
You can improve customer service by providing new avenues for promotion and distribution, by responding more quickly to orders, and by offering more responsive after-sales service.

You can cut costs and save time by improving the quality of supply chain management, by integrating back-end production and logistics with front-end marketing and sales, and by letting the computer and software do most of the work in controlling inventory.

You can cut costs and save time by improving internal functions, by cutting down on meetings, by sharing information, by eliminating endless trails of paper, and by assuring that internal communications are precise and understood.

How do I hook up my computer to the Internet?
You (the user) sign a contract with an Internet Service Provider (ISP) for a dial-in or dedicated connection to the provider's equipment, which then gives you access to the Internet. The Internet Service Provider (also known as a server) delivers, in effect, the Internet dial tone. Each computer connected to the Internet is assigned an Internet Protocol (IP number), which is its address. They are analogous to telephone numbers.

When looking for an ISP to connect your business to the Internet, consider what different ISPs charge for access time, reliability (e.g. no busy signals or interruptions in connection), speed of data transmission, technical and other services they offer.

It wasn't long ago that your choice was between huge international companies or smaller local companies, or the occasional free community service. Now the telephone and cable companies have jumped into this business, and are often providing faster transmission of data than was previously offered. Ask for advice from somebody you know who is already online, and pick a company that is likely to offer you a decent deal over a long period, because it is inefficient marketing to keep changing your business e-mail addresses.

Is the Internet expensive?
At first, the costs to get on the Internet can seem intimidating, but compared with what you can accomplish in the areas of marketing and retailing on the Internet versus in the traditional commercial world, it is a very cost effective solution. Also, the potential Internet market is exponentially larger than any local market. First you will need a modem equipped computer ($1,000-$5,000) and access to the Internet through an Internet Service Provider ($30-$50 a month). These costs are estimates only, since costs can vary significantly, as computer prices continue to come down, and as new access technologies become accessible and affordable (i.e. cable access).

If you want to set up a Web site for your business, consider hiring a professional to design it for you. The costs can vary significantly whether you want a simple Web site or a very complex Web site. Once you have a site you will want to register the domain (e.g. your-business-name.com), which may cost as much as $140, depending on your choice of the .com or .ca domain extensions, for two years. Registering your domain on the Internet is like registering your company and company name. Information on registering your domain can be found at http://www.internic.net and http://www.cira.ca or from your ISP. There are also maintenance costs to consider to keep the site up to date and running smoothly, which can cost between $20 and $100 a month, depending on the scope of the site.

How can I secure my Web site and transactions on the Internet?
The type of security you will need for your Web site depends on what kind of use it will have. Once you determine use, you can identify the types of threats you will need to protect yourself against. For example, if you will be doing online sales using credit cards, you will need to protect the credit card information from being intercepted, both during the transaction and when it is stored on the server. Similarly, if you have confidential customer information, you will also want to ensure that this information is not accessible. It is useful to note, however, that in many instances, doing online credit card sales can be more secure than in a traditional environment, where much of the credit card fraud is caused by the people involved in the transaction, or by the theft of receipts.

There are a number of security options, from firewall software, to secure servers, to Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), SET and public key infrastructure. Your ISP and/or Web developer should be able to provide you with more information on these solutions, and whether they are right for your site. The most effective and efficient solution for small to mid-size companies may be to use a commerce server provider (CSP). CSPs lease their services to individual retailers for a fraction of the cost of buying a complete e-commerce solution.

What is a digital signature?
A digital signature is a convenient and secure way of signing electronic documents. Digital signatures provide a secure form of transacting electronically. It is virtually impossible to forge or copy a digital signature. When a document is digitally signed, its integrity and authenticity can be verified, as can the identity of the signer. Digital signatures are based on mathematical theory and the use of algorithms. A digital signature is a complicated concept, but its application is relatively simple and straightforward. Your software does all the work, while you (the user) simply selects the signature option in the software. Digital signatures are particularly important if you want make the electronic transaction as binding as possible. Government legislation is currently being amended to provide for the acceptance of digital signatures (and other forms of electronic signatures) and electronic documents as evidence.

Statistics Canada - Internet Statistics
Statistics tables covering topics such as Internet usage, household Internet users characteristics, and electronic commerce.

Regulations that Apply to the Internet and E-Business
In general, all existing laws that apply to traditional commerce apply equally in an electronic environment (for example, laws governing business incorporation, business name registration, taxation, consumer protection, deceptive advertising, importing / exporting, product safety, product standards, criminal code, inter-provincial trade treaties, intellectual property and liability, etc.). Companies must comply with the law of any jurisdiction where it is deemed to be "carrying on business".

Internet Sales Contract Regulation
This Alberta regulation applies to a consumer contract where the goods or services exceed $50 and the contract is formed by text-based Internet communications. The regulation sets out specific disclosure requirements for Internet sellers and provides for consumer cancellation and refund rights if these are not met. In addition, if payment is made by credit card, the card issuer is also obligated to provide a refund to the purchaser if the seller fails to do so. For information, get the tipsheet Shopping on the Internet

For more information about the Internet Sales Contract Regulation call the Alberta Government Services, Consumer Information Centre, Edmonton: 780-427-4088 Toll free in Alberta: 1-877-427-4088

Privacy and Security

Is the information I put on this system safe? Can people steal my confidential company information or gain access to my credit card if I use it over the Internet?
Some businesses are waiting to go online until a secure electronic environment is assured. Solutions to privacy and security exist today. Software can be used to encrypt transactions and block unwanted messages. Your ISP and/or Web developer should be able to provide you with information on various software packages, based on your security needs.

Privacy Laws

The federal Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and the Alberta Personal Information Protection Act (PIPA) both share the same explicitly stated purpose: To govern the collection, use and disclosure of personal information by private sector organizations in a manner that recognizes both the right of the individual to have his or her personal information protected and the need of organizations to collect, use and disclose personal information for purposes that a reasonable person would consider appropriate.

Key Points about PIPEDA and PIPA

  • PIPEDA applies to federal works, undertakings or businesses (FWUBs).
  • PIPEDA applies to the collection, use and disclosure of personal information in the course of a commercial activity and across borders. PIPEDA also applies within provinces without substantially similar private sector privacy legislation.
  • PIPEDA applies to employee information only in connection with a FWUB.
  • The provincial PIPA applies to provincially regulated private sector organizations.
  • Employee information held by provincially-regulated organizations in Alberta is covered by PIPA.

Under each privacy law, a Commissioner is designated for overseeing the application of the statute and investigating disputes between individuals and organizations. Each Commissioner heads an organization devoted to oversight of that law (and sometimes other laws as well).

  • For PIPEDA, the privacy office is the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada http://www.privcom.gc.ca
  • In Alberta, the privacy office is the Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner of Alberta http://www.oipc.ab.ca

Online E-security and Privacy Guide http://www.privacyguide.cebi.ca
Designed to help SMEs understand e-security and privacy risks and what they can do to manage them.

Recognizing that SMEs are at different stages of e-business development, the product has been organized so that you can determine what you should be doing on the security and privacy front in relation to your level of e-business activity.

Taxation

Do I need to collect GST/HST and PST if I sell things over the Internet to persons outside of my province or in another country?
In general, all existing tax rules apply equally in an electronic environment, and no new taxes have been created specifically for electronic commerce. For specific tax-related questions, please call the Canada Revenue Agency at 1-800-959-5525, visit the Website at http://www.ccra-adrc.gc.ca/ecomm

The Goods and Services Tax (GST) is a multi-stage tax that applies to most transactions throughout the production and marketing process. Under the Goods and Services Tax (GST), most goods and services sold or provided in Canada are taxable at a rate of 5%.

Provincial Sales Tax (PST) is a tax based on the retail price of most goods. Businesses that sell taxable goods or provide a taxable service are responsible for collecting tax and remitting it on a regular basis. Alberta has no provincial sales tax. Does your business sell products, deliver sold goods, or provide services in other provinces? If so, you may be liable for sales taxes charged by those provinces on those goods or services, and on any equipment you bring into those provinces for use in your business. More information is at: http://www.finance.gov.ab.ca/publications/tax_rebates/businesses_other_provinces.html

Quebec Sales Tax (QST) and the GST
The QST applies to taxable goods and services delivered in Quebec. Ministère du Revenu administers the QST and the GST in Quebec. For more information, contact the: ministère du Revenu, Montréal 514-873-4692, Québec City: 418-659-4692 or 1-800-567-4692.

Export Rules

Do I need an export license if I sell things over the Internet?
The application of export rules is the same in the electronic world. If you currently need an export permit to sell your product overseas, you will need one to sell it over the Internet to people in foreign countries.

The issuance of Export Permits is administered by the Export Controls Division of International Trade Canada. The Division provides assistance to exporters in determining if export permits are required. It also publishes brochures and Notices to Exporters. For further information, please call 613-996-2387, or visit the Website at http://www.dfait-maeci.gc.ca/eicb

Consumer Protection

Marketing practices / advertising
Under the Competition Act, it is a criminal offense to engage in certain kinds of misleading advertising and deceptive marketing practices. The Competition Act defines which marketing practices are illegal in Canada. The Act is enforced by the Competition Bureau, and is applicable in an electronic environment.

Consumers are now able to complain about misleading cross-border electronic commerce at the following Web site http://www.econsumer.gov. The Competition Bureau participated in this Web site's launch, along with officials from 12 other countries.

For further information, please call 1-800-348-5358, or see the web page Competition Act - Misleading Advertising and Deceptive Marketing Practices

Canadian Code of Practice for Consumer Protection in Electronic Commerce
The Canadian Code of Practice for Consumer Protection in Electronic Commerce was endorsed by federal, provincial and territorial Ministers responsible for consumer affairs in January 2004. The Code is intended to establish benchmarks for good business practices for merchants conducting commercial activities with consumers online.

The Code contains information on the following:

  • Information Provision;
  • Language;
  • Contract Formation and Fulfilment;
  • Online Privacy;
  • Security of Payment and Personal Information;
  • Complaint Handling and Dispute Resolution;
  • Unsolicited E-mail;
  • Communications with Children.

For more information, you may visit the Web site http://cmcweb.ca/epic/internet/incmc-cmc.nsf/vwapj/EcommPrinciples2003_e.pdf/$FILE/EcommPrinciples2003_e.pdf to download the Canadian Code of Practice for Consumer Protection in Electronic Commerce in PDF format (Adobe Acrobat Reader required).

Programs which Can Help a Company Finance the Development of an E-Business Solution

Financing for e-business - BDC
The Business Development Bank of Canada offers possibilities of financing for e-business. Whatever your development stage - from initial feasibility study to implementing and integrating a fully transactional site - BDC's specialized financing may be the solution for your e-business needs. For more information, please visit the BDC website

Training and Information on E-Business

BDC Consulting Group - E-business/E-Strat Become an effective e-business with the support of an experienced BDC advisor. Evaluate e-business relevancy, readiness, potential, and implementation strategies. Re-align your production, supply chain, processes, and customer relations with Internet technology. The following e-business diagnostic tools are available:
  • E-business Relevancy Diagnostic - Diagnostic to help you measure the relevancy of e-business for your firm.
  • E-business Readiness Diagnostic - Diagnostic to help you measure the your firm's readiness regarding e-business planning and implementation.
Canadian e-Business Initiative

The Canadian e-Business Initiative (CeBI) is a voluntary, private sector-led partnership that aims to further Canada's e-business success by focusing on productivity, leadership and innovation in small and medium enterprises.

Electronic Commerce in Canada
This site is the virtual focal point for information on Canada's Electronic Commerce Strategy, outlining the various initiatives which are helping make Canada a world leader in the adoption and use of electronic commerce.

Using E-Business to Do Business with the Government
The government is moving towards delivering more of its programs and services electronically. Four examples of such programs are:

  • Trade-marks
    Trade-mark registration gives you exclusive rights to words, symbols and designs, or combinations of these, that distinguish your wares or services from those of someone else. Trade-marks can be registered electronically with the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO).
    Web site: http://cipo.gc.ca
  • Federal Business Incorporation - Canada Business Corporations Act (CBCA)
    You may now send key documents to the Director via electronic forms provided through the Corporations Directorate's Electronic Filing Centre Web site.
    Web site: Electronic Filing Centre
  • MERX: Electronic Tendering Service
    MERXTM is an online service that advertises government contracting opportunities to potential bidders
    Web site: http://www.merx.com
  • Supplier Registration Information (SRI)
    SRI is an electronic directory for federal government buyers who may use it to identify potential suppliers for purchases not subject to any of the trade agreements (for which they use MERXTM). SRI gives firms a Procurement Business Number (PBN) which they will use in procurement related dealings with the federal government.
    Web site: http://contractscanada.gc.ca/en/regist-e.htm

Related Sites

Examples of services available free of charge, but not limited to:

Community Access Program
This program provides support for public computer access to the Information Highway via the Internet at the local community level. The overall objective is to provide all Canadians with affordable, convenient access to the global knowledge-based economy and the opportunity to use its technologies.
Website: http://cap.ic.gc.ca

Consumers and Electronic Commerce, Canada's Office of Consumer Affairs
Office of Consumer Affairs discussion papers, links to other Strategis electronic commerce documents such as case studies.

Building Trust in the Digital Economy: Authentication
http://e-com.ic.gc.ca/epic/internet/inecic-ceac.nsf/en/h_gv00003e.html
Discusses the use of cryptographic technologies to establish user's identity.

The Canadian Internet Registration Authority (CIRA) http://www.cira.ca
The CIRA is a not for profit Canadian corporation that has the mandate to set policy for and operate the .ca domain.

ecommerce - guide.com http://e-comm.internet.com
Offers a broad range of articles and links.

Electronic Commerce and the European Union http://europa.eu.int/information_society
A large site with an introductory section on electronic commerce, an issues section and information on the G7 E-Commerce initiative.

Electronic Commerce and the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) http://www.oecd.org/subject/e_commerce
A site providing documentation and background information on electronic commerce initiative in the OECD countries.

Protecting Yourself When Buying Online, US Federal Trade Commission
http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/menus/consumer/tech/online.shtm
A basic overview of the potential hazards and how to avoid them.

ECnow.com http://www.ecnow.com
ECnow.com is a high-end electronic commerce consulting firm helping companies satisfy customers through electronic commerce & electronic communication.

Canadian Bankers Association http://www.cba.ca
Accepting payment by credit card usually requires a business bank (merchant) account with financial institutions that deal with each specific card. See your financial institution or the Canadian Bankers Association Web site for information on electronic commerce.

Insurance Bureau of Canada
The Insurance Bureau of Canada (IBC) is the national trade association of non-government property and casualty ("P&C" or "non-life") insurers, the private companies which insure the cars, homes and businesses of Canadians. Their website has publications about business insurance.

Canadian Electronic Commerce Technology Suppliers
Section of the Canadian Company Capabilities Web site that lists suppliers of electronic commerce technology.

SES http://www.sesresearch.com
SES is a full-service market research firm, drawing on a wide range of disciplines including marketing, research, management consulting and business administration.

ZD-Net http://www.zdnet.com/ecommerce
This site includes a comprehensive Internet and e-commerce related search engine as well as Business Shopping links.

Forrester Research http://www.forrester.com
Even without a subscription to their research material, this site has a reference library, highlights from their reports and other e-commerce related information.

IBM http://www.ibm.com/e-business
This site has a small business section, with resource information to help small businesses with understanding what it takes to successfully set up shop on the Internet, as well as lots of other links to e-commerce related information.

econsumer.gov http://www.econsumer.gov
This site offers information about consumer protection laws and activities in participating countries.

Additional Information
Clients can consult Internet-business publications and guides, such as "Cyberlaw Canada" or "Small Business Guide to Doing Big Business on the Internet" from the Self-Counsel Press, "Canadian Internet Advantage" from Prentice Hall Canada or "Selling Online - How to Become a Successful E-Commerce Merchant in Canada" by Jim Carroll and Rick Broadhead, published by CDG Books Canada Inc. http://www.rickbroadhead.com

For detailed information on setting-up your Website, contact your Web developer or your Internet Service Provider.

Note: see the document E-Commerce - Exploring Your Options

*Note: "electronic commerce" may also be spelled "e-commerce, e-business".

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DISCLAIMER
Information contained in this document is of a general nature only and is not intended to constitute advice for any specific fact situation. Users concerned about the reliability of the information should consult directly with the source, or seek legal counsel.

Links Policy
Some of the hypertext links lead to non-federal government sites which are not subject to the Official Languages Act and the material is available in one language only.