Most people run a text marketing program completely free of incident. By being here, reading this guide, you’re already taking the right educational steps. Knowing exactly what you can and can’t do is all it takes to stay out of a sticky situation.
But sometimes, people slip up. So it’s important to understand what can potentially happen should you violate TCPA protocol. And not only are their legal repercussions, but there are also potential repercussions from your customers.
What Is the TCPA?
The TCPA is the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. It’s a piece of federal legislation that protects consumers’ right to privacy and is designed to cut back on annoying—and more specifically unwanted—telephone calls and texts.
What Is Regulated Under the TCPA?
Originally, the TCPA was created to regulate calls. Shortly thereafter, it was extended to text messages. At SimpleTexting, we give you several options when it comes to what number you can use. Some of these options allow you to text and call from the same number. If you plan on doing this, it’s helpful to know the TCPA regulations that apply specifically to phone calls:
Do Not Call Registry
Have you ever wondered whether the Do Not Call List is a real thing, or whether it’s just a polite way of asking telemarketers to leave you alone? We’ve got good news: it’s real! The TCPA created a national National Do Not Call Registry and prohibited telemarketers from calling anyone on it.
Robocalls and Automated Dialing
As cool as it sounds, a robocall isn’t actually a call from a futuristic robot. It’s when a computer dials a number instead of a human. This applies to both calls and text messages. Telemarketers use automated dialing to contact thousands of consumers at once.
Pre-recorded Voice Messages
It’s not illegal for a business to call customers for marketing purposes. However, a real person needs to be on the line. It’s a violation of the TCPA to use pre-recorded voice messages.
What Constitutes a TCPA Violation?
At first, the TCPA may sound quite scary and intimidating. But remember, it’s only designed to cut down on scammers and nuisances. Below are the three main TCPA violations every company should be aware of. Additional regulations apply to debt collectors.
Unsolicited Calls or Texts to Cell Phones
If a business, without prior permission, calls a cell phone using automated dialing or a pre-recorded message, that constitutes a TCPA violation. As we’ve touched on, if someone has given you express written consent, you can text them.
Unsolicited Calls or Texts to Residential Phone Numbers
In order for businesses to call residential numbers, they must have an “established business relationship” with the owner of the number. If the telemarketer hasn’t done business with the consumer in the last 18 months, then they do not have an established business relationship and calling them using automated dialing or a pre-recorded message is a TCPA violation.
Calls to Those Listed on the Do Not Call Registry
It’s illegal to call anyone who has opted-out of phone calls by registering on the federal Do Not Call Registry.
What Are the Penalties for Violating the TCPA?
Penalties associated with violations of the TCPA can include $500 per each violation and up to $1,500 per willful violation. It’s not uncommon to see settlements in the tens of millions of dollars for class action TCPA lawsuits.
What Are Some Real-World Examples of TCPA Violations?
There are several notable cases that highlight how important it is to follow TCPA regulations, whether you’re a brand, or a marketing agency working on behalf of a brand.
In 2017, Dish Network had to pay approximately $341 million in damages for violating TCPA guidelines. Members of the class action suit alleged that Dish had knowingly called numbers on the Do Not Call registry. Dish tried to argue that their telemarketing provider, Satellite System Network, was at fault, not them. The jury rejected this argument and awarded $400 per call.
In 2013, Domino’s Pizza agreed to pay nearly $10 million dollars to settle a class-action lawsuit. Similar to the Dish Network case, the court found that consumers had received unsolicited marketing calls. Additionally, it was found that Domino’s sent promotional texts without receiving consent first.
Alright, now that you have enough information to pass the Bar exam (…kidding) let’s learn about exactly when these laws start applying to you.
How Can You Remain TCPA Compliant?
We’ve already touched on this, but it’s still worth repeating. To remain TCPA compliant you must practice express consent. When it comes to text marketing, we’ve built express consent right into the platform. When a user subscribes to receive your messages, they’ll automatically get a text confirmation with all the necessary TCPA disclosures.
Online forms, with the necessary compliance info alongside them, are another simple way to make sure you’re in the clear. Our embeddable, TCPA-compliant web forms can be added to any website. We even provide the option of enabling double opt-in, which requires the user to respond Y or Yes to confirm that they want to subscribe.
If you like to keep things old-school, you can always use a printed form if your customers are available to fill them out in-person. Just make sure to store all the paperwork safely in case you need to refer to it later.
And—that’s it. Yes, really. Our compliance guide is done! Go out there and send some legal text messages. Or read on into the conclusion where we’ll cover the most important points.
💡 Key Takeaways:
- When a contact subscribes to your texts you have to send them an automatic confirmation message with disclosures. (e.g. You’ve agreed to receive messages from ACME Company. 1msg/wk. Reply STOP to unsubscribe or HELP for help. Msg&Data rates may apply.)
- Heavy fines ranging from $500-$1,500 per violation are the most common punishment for non-compliance.
- Unsolicited calls or texts qualify as TCPA violations.
Disclaimer: Please note that this advice is for informational purposes only and is neither intended as nor should be substituted for consultation with appropriate legal counsel and/or your organization’s regulatory compliance team.
Previously: Text Message Laws & The Groups Who Make Them
Up Next: Conclusion