SMS Regulations

Let’s jump into the top five rules you absolutely need to know when using SMS.

Written Consent

According to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), consumers must give a business “express written consent” before the business starts sending them text messages. This written consent can’t be buried in a pages-long form. It must be clear and conspicuous, so the recipient knows what they’re signing up for. Failure to adhere to this guideline is one of many possible TCPA violations. You’re also not allowed to require a consumer to opt-in to a text program as a condition to purchase property, goods, or services. However you decide to get consent, it should have a clear call-to-action associated with your opt-in method.

Acceptable Opt-In Methods

  • Signed contract includes statement regarding SMS communication between the two parties
  • Send a phrase or keyword to your number
  • Enter a phone number on a web form online
  • Sign up in-person at a physical location

Note: Even text messages that are merely informational require consent.

Rules When Importing Contacts

Express written consent isn’t just for new contacts, it’s for all contacts including those that are import. Before uploading a list, be sure that every phone number has given with permission to send them messages.

Call-to-Action Requirements

A call-to-action is the message that prompts a consumer to opt-in to your SMS campaign or program. 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.

Privacy Policy / Terms and Conditions

List all the privacy policy or the terms and conditions beneath the call-to-action, or provide a link. 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 (example: Reply STOP to unsubscribe)

Confirmation Message

Regardless of how a customer signed up, your very first response must be a compliance message confirming opt-in (easy to automate this process). It should reiterate some important information, including:

  • Your identity
  • Message frequency
  • How to opt out

Off-Limit Topics - AKA: SHAFT

The CTIA is an association of mobile carriers who set rules and best practices for the SMS marketing industry. One of these rules is known as SHAFT— sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco. Including content related to any of these topics in your call-to-action or any of your messages is considered one of the highest violations, and may result in an immediate ban.

There are a few exceptions to this rule. If, for example, you operate a bar you may still be able to send messages about happy hour specials. However, it is crucial that you operate on a dedicated toll-free number and have an age gate preventing under the age of 21 from signing up for your texts.