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Mar 7, 2019
5 MIN READ

Text Messaging Laws Every Business Has To Know About

SMS marketing is the biggest mobile marketing trend of 2018 and will continue to grow in 2019. Texting services are one of the favorite marketing channels of businesses. However, with text message marketing, there’s always a high risk that customers can opt-out from receiving messages from you. That’s why you should always manage your SMS unsubscribe rate. However, there’s another more important risk involved in SMS marketing. Companies must be very cautious and carefully follow all text message laws for businesses. In this article, we will learn about the text message regulations that businesses have to comply with both in the US and EU.


Text Message Regulations in the US

Electronic communications in the United States are closely regulated and the laws are very strict. There are 3 main organizations that deal with wireless device regulations, including texting services, in the US:

The CTIA is a trade association that represents the wireless communications industry, while the MMA urges to accelerate the transformation and innovation of marketing through mobile devices. Both of these organizations’ mission is to establish the best marketing practices for mass SMS texting. The FCC, on the other hand, has a bit different goal. It is an independent agency of the government that aims to regulate interstate electronic communications by wire, satellite, cable, TV, and radio. It has legislative power to enact laws and regulations that businesses have to comply with.


Telephone Consumer Protection Act (US)

Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) has been enacted by FCC and is the main anti-telemarketing law, thus, the leading regulator of SMS marketing as well. According to TCPA, businesses may not send any messages to consumers unless they give their consent. Even if an individual has given his/her phone number or has a long-term relationship with the business, the business has no rights to text the individual if he/she has not granted written consent. It’s essential to obtain explicit written consent and not verbal, in order to add the number to the subscription list. In this case, written doesn’t refer to any type of written (e.g. - on paper), but written in a way that it’s documented and saved. To get the consumer opt-in to your SMS marketing campaigns and stay in compliance with TCPA, he or she must receive a clear and conspicuous disclosure of the text messages they will receive. And that must agree to receive these messages to their mobile device. Consider the following ways for an individual to join your subscription database:

  • Keyword texting - customers text a keyword from their mobile device and join your SMS database.

  • Paper form - they fill out a paper form which clearly explains that they are opting-in to receiving text campaigns from the business to their personal phone number. The company is responsible to include all the legal copies in the sample ad.

  • Online form - similar to the paper form, the same process happens online. The form has to explicitly describe that the person will subscribe to receiving text messages from the company, once they provide their phone number.

You have to be very clear and define your mass SMS texting strategies so that the customer knows what they are going to receive from you. With your first message, you want to fully explain to the subscriber what they should expect from you:

  • Disclose the description of the program they have subscribed for.

  • Tell them how frequently they should expect messages from you, i.e. maximum and minimum number of text messages they will receive in a defined time period such as week or month.

  • Include a link to the full terms and conditions of the privacy policy.

  • Explain how they can opt-out from receiving messages (STOP instructions), as well as how they can get help information (HELP instructions). You can input a URL which will direct them to a landing page that contains detailed information about HELP and STOP instructions.

In order to avoid spam messages, a 5 or 6 digit phone numbers have been created, called shortcodes. They ensure that businesses can send commercial text messages to consumers that are regulated by the guidelines of wireless carriers, mainly enforced by the CTIA.


CAN-SPAM ACT (US)

The CAN-SPAM Act works together with TCPA. It requires the FCC to issue rules with regard to commercial texts sent to wireless devices, such as mobiles phones, to protect consumers from unwanted mobile service commercial messages. The CAN-SPAM act forbids businesses to send commercial text messages to cell phones and requires that any commercial message be easily identifiable as an advertisement by the receiver. The subscriber must be able to easily unsubscribe from receiving such messages. This act doesn’t relate to messages that contain information regarding an existing transaction or relationship, such as delivery notification, or to non-commercial messages.

 

Text Message Laws For Businesses in the European Union

The European Union (EU) has also established laws and regulations regarding electronic communications. The main regulation in this region is implemented by the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).


General Data Protection Regulation

GDPR applies to all countries that want to do business with the EU or to use EU citizens’ personal data. So the main aim of this law is to perfect the data security, in terms of the storing, using and transporting of the data. The regulation has been approved by the parliament in 2016 and came into effect in May of 2018. GDPR outlines data privacy guidelines and a failure to comply with the laws would result in huge fines. The regulation works on changing the way sensitive consumer data is handled and distributed, as well as establishes new rules in regard to consumer consent, breach response and data privacy. The GDPR regulations relate to commercial text messages and to data security in general. Thereby, it may affect all aspects of your organization. So make sure that your business complies with all GDPR regulations, as non-compliance will result in a costly mistake.

Now that you know all the important text message regulations, you can confidently create your SMS marketing campaigns and win the hearts of your customers.

 

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