SMS is an incredibly powerful email marketing strategy that enables you to reach consumers more efficiently and at lower cost. SMS allows you to target people through the channel they are most likely to see, open and respond to.
But before you start collecting contacts and dismissing messages, it is crucial that you first understand the various SMS compliance laws and regulations that have been adopted to protect each customer.
Failure to do so may result in severe penalties, including fees or lawsuits.
Need help complying with SMS marketing? Then these requirements for compliance with SMS and laws and guidelines and action plans are something for you.
Who monitors compliance with text messages?
Short message services (SMS) are text messages sent to and from smartphones and are limited to 160 characters. Today, it is by far the most popular and convenient form of marketing communication. In 2019, an estimated two trillion ninety-eight billion text messages were sent and received worldwide
While there are no rules prohibiting a person from texting another — even without their permission — the same cannot be said of messages between businesses and consumers.
In short, a person’s inbox for text messages is a form of personal property. Businesses can not just violate their privacy by sending marketing messages without consent. It can be considered a form of harassment. So if you want to send SMS marketing messages, consumers need to sign up.
In the early days of SMS, there was no protection in place to prevent companies from simply buying phone numbers and spam SMS. As a result, several organizations have stepped in to protect consumer privacy and ensure that companies behave properly. Of these, four major devices monitor the vast majority of SMS compliance:
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – The FTC is tasked with enforcing federal consumer protection laws to “prevent fraud, deception and unfair business practices.” 2 Federal Communications Commission (FCC) – The FCC is another government agency responsible for regulating media communications. Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) – A non-profit group made up of various SMS marketing companies. Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) – A group that helps create rules, regulations and standards regarding SMS marketing.
Of these, only the FTC and the FCC have the authority to establish and enforce SMS compliance requirements and laws.
What laws regulate SMS compliance?
The vast majority of rules for compliance with SMS fall under the auspices of two acts – the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the CAN-SPAM Act.
Telephone Consumer Protection Act
In 1991, Congress passed the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Its original purpose was to limit the deluge of telemarketing calls and the use of telephone call systems and robocalls. The rules herein applied to both marketers and telephone operators.
Over the years, additional additions were made, including:
Rules from 1992 that required companies that made phone calls to maintain a company-specific non-call list A 2012 review that required phone marketers: Obtain prior express written consent from consumers before contacting them To exclude an “established business relationship” “as an excuse to avoid call consent Request telemarketers to provide an automatic interactive” opt-out “option
With the advent of SMS communication, the laws were further applied to all marketing calls, text messages and faxes. Failure by companies to comply with these rules could result in significant fines starting with a $ 500 fine for every sms sent illegally.
SMS Compliance Tip # 1 – Get Consent
To maintain SMS compliance with TCPA, companies may not send a message or call a consumer without their consent – even if it is for informational purposes only. And it can not be implicit consent or the result of previous business interaction. Instead, companies must obtain explicit written consent from consumers before sending notices.
You do not necessarily have to have consumer consent via a handwritten letter. While that would be permissible, it is not exactly practical in the digital age. Today, there are several ways to obtain consent, including:
Have customers enter their phone number in an online web form with the required terms clearly stated. Submit a keyword response based on an ad that contains the necessary terms. Physical registration in person via a form with clearly stated terms.
SMS Compliance Tip # 2 – Give a Reveal
After consumers have signed up to receive messages, you must state the full scope of your SMS communication and at the same time provide a means to opt out of it.
Each time a new subscriber joins your list, your very first message must be a carrier compliance message confirming that they have signed up. It should contain important information such as:
Who you are How often do you send them messages The fact that messages and data rates can apply How they can opt out
But even after the initial message, many of these elements should still be included — the most important being the ability to opt out. So a message might look like this:
Hi _______, Electronics Mecca here! Kind reminder – you have an unused wallet credit in your account that expires this SUN 1/8/21 at. 22.00. Go and get yourself something nice. Have a nice weekend! Answer STOP to stop.
In 2003, Congress passed the law on controlling attacks on unsolicited pornography and marketing (CAN-SPAM) to try to curb the flood of unsolicited commercial emails and text messages sent to wireless devices. Section 14 of the Act required the FCC to develop rules to protect consumers from “unwanted commercial communications about mobile services.” 4
This action improves and adds TCPA.
Tips for SMS compliance no. 3-Identify, opt-out, return address
To comply with CAN-SPAM, there are three actions, commercial emails and texts sent to mobile phones must follow:
Identification – There must be a clear indicator that the message is a solicitation or advertisement for goods or services. Opt-out Email Availability and Text Availability are a must and free ways to prevent future messages from being sent. Return address – The e-mail or text message must contain a legitimate return address or telephone number. And for emails, it must include the sender’s mailing address.
Additional compliance tips
In addition to the tips that are directly related to compliance with congressional consumer protection laws, there are other factors companies should keep in mind in order to maintain compliance. These include:
SMS Compliance Tip # 4 – Be careful when importing contacts
The requirement to receive explicit written consent is not limited to your newer contacts only – it’s for everyone. So even if you are importing a subscriber list, it is important that you first double check to confirm that each person on the list has voluntarily donated two things:
Your phone number Express permission to send them messages
Doing your due diligence will prevent you from being hit by an unexpected violation, especially when you try to comply with the rules.
SMS Compliance Tip # 5 – There Are Certain Things You Can’t Write For (SHAFT)
One of CTIA’s rules for text marketing is known as SHAFT. This stands for sex, hatred, alcohol, firearms and tobacco. Whether it is a normal message or the first call to action, you can generally not include these topics in your SMS.
That said, there are some exceptions to this rule. For example, if you own a bar or a shooting range, you may be able to send messages about happy hours or ammunition deals. But to do that, it must:
Come from a dedicated toll free number. Include an age sport that prevents people below the legal age limit from signing up
SMS compliance tip # 6 – when you text means as much as what you send to text
There are only certain time windows in which companies are allowed to send messages. Under the TCPA, you may not text or call subscribers before 8:00 or after 21:00. This SMS behavior is considered offensive and can result in significant penalties.
SMS Compliance Tip # 7 – Protect yourself with terms and conditions
Customers tend to forget that they have signed up for an SMS message. By sharing your terms and conditions, you can remind customers that you are compatible and respectful of the law.
The terms and conditions of your SMS communication policy must be easy to find and access. Include a link to them in your original information message, and then periodically remind customers of the policy.
If the terms change, notify your customers immediately.
TIP No. 8 for compliance with SMS – Observe the national call register
As a business, it is important that you respect consumers’ wishes for privacy. Do not call or text anyone in the Do Not Call Registry. It is a violation of the law and can result in stiff fines. Similarly, if people opt out, respect their decision and leave the consumer alone.
After opting out, it may be helpful to send a confirmation message that unsubscribing was successful and that no further messages will be sent.
Compliance with SMS rules
Practicing SMS compliance is an important way you can protect your business and maintain consumer privacy. Before you start building your SMS marketing audience, be sure to work with your legal team to build a legally compatible SMS marketing program.
By following the tips above, you can start an SMS engagement campaign without having to worry about possible violations or penalties.
Need help setting up a selling SMS campaign? See more email / CRM tips at Marketing-Ideas, e.g. Email segmentation and email A / B testing.
Our digital marketing agency can help you build an end-to-end SMS campaign. Whether it’s identifying your target audience, ensuring compliance or operating your value propositions, Marketing-Ideas has the tools you need to succeed.
Statista. Total number of text messages sent in the US from 2005 to 2019. https://www.statista.com/statistics/185879/number-of-text-messages-in-the-united-states-since-2005/ FTC. Enforcement. https://www.ftc.gov/enforcement FCC. FCC actions regarding Robocalls, telemarketing. https://www.fcc.gov/general/telemarketing-and-robocalls FCC. CAN-SPAM. https://www.fcc.gov/general/can-spam