SMS Compliance

Published on January 27, 2016

Compliance isn’t complicated, but it is absolutely mandatory. We don’t want to scare you too much, but failing to follow the law can have dire consequences. For example, in 2012 Papa John’s agreed to pay over $16 million to settle a class action lawsuit brought against them for failure to get proper user consent.

To prevent upset customers and potential legal action, businesses need to comply with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which provides for some basic consumer protections when it comes to text marketing.

"However you decide get consent, you should have a clear call to action associated with your opt-in mechanism."

Express written consent

According to the TCPA, customers must give businesses “express written consent” before the business sends them text messages. This written consent can’t be buried in a pages-long form full of legalese. It must be clear and conspicuous, so the recipient knows what they’re signing up for.

Even text messages that are merely informational require consent. Here are some ways customers can give consent and opt in to receive text messages from you:

  • Send a keyword to a short code
  • Enter a phone number on a web form online
  • Sign up at a physical location

It’s important to note that you’re not allowed to require a user to opt in to your text program as a condition to purchase property, goods, or services. If you haven’t already, check out our import guidelines to learn a bit more about the type of consent you must get from an individual to lawfully send SMS marketing messages.

However you decide to get consent, you should have a clear call to action associated with your opt-in mechanism.

information about SMS messaging complianceCall to action

A call to action is the message that prompts the individual to opt in to your SMS campaign. It should consist of the following:

  • SMS campaign purpose
    Let your subscribers know what they’re signing up for. Are they getting reminders? Coupons? Tips? Specify what you’re offering so there aren’t any surprises.
  • Message frequency
    Include the approximate number of messages the customer should expect to receive in a given week or month. This will prevent any unexpected or intrusive texts.
  • Message and data rates
    Even though unlimited texting has become more common, some users may have to pay a small fee to receive text messages. You have to inform your subscribers that these charges may be incurred if they sign up to your program.
  • Terms and conditions
    List all the terms and conditions in full beneath the CTA, or provide a link nearby. This list should contain:

    • The identity of your company/brand/program
    • Customer care contact information
    • Description of the product people are signing up for
    • Opt-out instructions in bold type (e.g., Reply STOP to unsubscribe)
  • Privacy policy
    List the privacy policy in full beneath the CTA, or provide a link nearby.

All this information may seem overwhelming, but it’s actually quite simple. Check out this illustration that highlights the anatomy of a CTA:

cafeCTA4

Confirmation

Regardless of how users signed up, your very first text must be a compliance message confirming opt-in. It should reiterate some important information, including:

  • Your identity
  • Message frequency
  • The fact that message and data rates may apply
  • How to opt out

SimpleTexting takes cares of confirmation messages for you automatically. The app will also fulfill HELP and STOP requests automatically.

Template confirmation message:

555888: {who and what} Alerts! Msg&data rates may apply.  {Message frequency} Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel.

Example confirmation message:

555888: Holy X Church Sunday School Alerts! Msg&data rates may apply. 1msg/wk. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel.

Final words

Mark Twain famously said, “I did not have time to write a short letter, so I wrote a long one instead.” This guide may be short, but it contains all the information you need.

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