Business Text Messaging and Compliance
[email protected], 08.01.2021
In our previous discussion, we looked at why text messaging is an unmatched resource for companies that must stay connected to their customers. Some quick statistics on why it is better:
- 70% of consumers want to use text messaging to engage with a business.
- More than 20% of consumers are not on social media.
- Text messages have a 98% view/open rate, usually within a few minutes.
Okay, now we know why text messaging is the best option. So why can’t we just start sending whatever we want to everyone with a mobile phone number? Because there are laws and guidelines in place to protect the privacy of consumers and to minimize unwanted spam.
What You Should Know to Stay in Compliance with Federal Regulations
There has been a lot of press over the last several years about robocalling, text messaging, and the laws that regulate them. The primary ones we need to be aware of are the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991), the Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR), and the Do Not Call Implementation Act (DNCIA).
According to the TCPA, a business must receive ‘express’ written consent from the consumer to send them promotional text messages (consent can be done digitally). One of the best ways is to get consent is to include a form on your website or in your customer portal which captures the date, time, and ideally their signature for opting in to receive your marketing message. You should also let them know how often they will receive the messages, what those messages will contain, and how they will be sent (automated versus manually).
A business must always give subscribers the ability to opt-out from receiving commercial text messages at any time by replying with a “STOP, “Cancel,” or “opt out.” Failure to process opt-outs can lead to serious financial risk from TCPA violations. You should also provide the opt-out ability in your customer portal(s), via e-mail, or by calling into your support department. In addition, you must also make sure your messaging platform or service provider immediately removes any number that responded with an opt-out message from your contact lists. Per the FCC, it is acceptable to send one final text message to the subscriber confirming the opt-out, but the best option is to not respond and simply remove the number. (Important note: Always keep a record of the date and time when the subscriber both opted-in and opted-out, as well as the IP address if possible.)
Do Not Call (DNC) Registry
You cannot send promotional text messages to anyone on the DNC registries (both state and federal). It is that simple. Most commercial messaging providers like teli provide the ability to scrub your customer contact lists against the DNC so you can identify and remove those number prior to sending a campaign. You must also keep a separate record of any mobile number that you removed from your contact list(s).
There is a Time…
Per the TCPA, you can only send promotional text messages between the hours of 8 a.m. and 9 p.m. local time to the mobile subscriber you are messaging. It is your responsibility to make sure your platform or the provider you are using can manage this. If they cannot, find a new provider.
What Does the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association Say About Commercial Text Messaging?
The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) is an organization that represents the wireless industry, including all major Mobile Network Operators (MNOs). The CTIA outlines everything described in the TCPA rules regarding business text messaging, but also provides additional best practices that you should follow for your text messaging campaigns:
- Do not use rented or shared consumer opt-in lists. All mobile subscriber lists you are messaging to should have opted-in directly with your company as noted under the TCPA opt-in paragraph discussed earlier.
Avoid message content that fall under one of these categories (which includes but is not limited to):
- Sex (including pornography, trafficking, prostitution)
- Hate (including abuse, discrimination, violence, harassment)
- Alcohol (especially to minors)
- Firearms (including accessories and ammunition)
- Tobacco (including CBD, vaping, and cannabis)
- Loans (including payday, tax refund, home equity)
- Debt consolidation & repair
- Gambling & casino
- Never use malicious and/or misleading weblinks/URLs that direct or re-direct to websites that are fraudulent or phish for consumer data.
- Misrepresenting ones’ identity as another person, business, or government agency.
- Sending messages that include trademarked or copyrighted material you have not been licensed to use.
- Sending multiple text messages in succession with a mobile subscriber that is not in two-way communication with you.
- Spoofing or using false source numbers.
The information covered here is just a start. You can view the complete TCPA and CTIA documents online (and it is recommended you do). However, if you follow these rules and guidelines you are well on your way to leveraging one of the most powerful marketing tools created in the last thirty years.