Thursday, August 16, 2018

With an impressive 98 percent open rate, SMS has quickly become the go-to marketing channel for small and enterprise companies alike. But with text marketing comes a whole new set of SMS compliance laws and best practices.

Businesses who fail to comply with strict SMS regulations face program suspension, angry customers and unwanted legal attention. Companies like Jiffy Lube and Papa John's were slammed with multimillion-dollar lawsuits for sending illegal text messages without proper consent.

Achieving compliance seems like a daunting task, but it doesn't have to be. Make sure your text campaign checks all the necessary legal boxes using this SMS compliance checklist.


Who Makes SMS Compliance Rules?

Compliance is crucial for keeping marketers in line. It's unwise to assume all marketers have their customers' best interests in mind. Without rules and regulations, some businesses would spam consumers with irrelevant information and replace personalized messages with annoying, intrusive campaigns.

SMS compliance rules are built on a foundation laid out by the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) and the Federal Communications Commission’s (FCC) Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).


The CTIA is an organization that represents the wireless communications industry in the U.S.

It enforces SMS marketing practices and legal guidelines and audits SMS marketing programs to protect mobile phone users from annoying, inappropriate or irrelevant SMS marketing messages. Although CTIA guidelines aren't official laws, the organization has the power to shut down noncompliant programs.


The FCC’s TCPA sets legal standards and provides basic consumer protections for SMS mobile messaging campaigns. The TCPA operates under federal law, meaning you can face legal action if you fail to comply.

The TCPA sets standards for telecommunications, including interactions with mobile devices. It defines which actions determine permission granted and what businesses are allowed to do once they have consent from a subscriber.

SMS Compliance Checklist

Send effective text marketing campaigns and keep subscribers happy by following this SMS compliance checklist.

Opt-In Messaging Requirements

Follow the Opt-In Requirements

The TCPA mandates that a business must receive "express written consent" from contacts before it can start sending them SMS marketing messages. The consent needs to be clear and straightforward — not buried in a lengthy form of terms and conditions.

Opt-ins are the most critical aspect of SMS compliance. If you text people without their explicit permission, it's considered spam and you risk facing legal repercussions.

In addition to physical, written consent, your customers can opt in to your SMS campaigns using a few different methods. The two most common are mobile opt-in and web opt-in.

  • Mobile Opt-In: Consumers can use their mobile phone to text a Keyword to a short code number. Promote your Keyword and the short code on advertisements, emails or ads to encourage people to subscribe to your list.


Send a Confirmation Text

When a new subscriber opts in to your SMS program via Keyword  the first thing you need to do is send a confirmation text. To align with best practices, this text should include:

  • Program Name: Include your business name so customers know who's contacting them. o Example: [Business Name] Mobile Alerts
  • Campaign Purpose: What types of messages will they receive? Are you going to send special offers, announcements or exclusive tips?
    •  Example: Sales, specials and news
  • Estimated Text Frequency: Include the approximate number of texts customers will receive in a typical week or month. 
    • Example: Up to 4 messages/month
  • Message and Data Rates Notice: Unlimited texting has become more common, but some users might incur fees for receiving text messages. Inform customers that standard message and data rates may apply.
    • Example text: Msg & Data rates may apply
  • Opt-Out Instructions: Include instructions to unsubscribe in bold type. Words subscribers may use to opt out include STOP, END, CANCEL, UNSUBSCRIBE or QUIT. When a subscriber responds to any message with one of these words, you are required to remove them from your SMS marketing list. 
    • Example: Text STOP to cancel
  • Help Instructions: Let users know that they can respond to any text message with the word HELP to receive more information. When a subscriber does so, you must reply with a phone number or link they can use to learn more about the program or your business.
    • Example: Text HELP for more information

With these elements in mind, your confirmation text might look like this:

[Business Name] Mobile Alerts: Sales, specials and news. Up to 4 messages/month. Msg & Data rates may apply. Text STOP to cancel. Text HELP for more information.

Other Ways to Opt In

  • Web Opt-In: Consumers can also opt in through a website form or landing page. When it comes to receiving consent, you can never be too careful. It's important to remember that customers giving you their phone numbers isn't the same as permitting you to text them. If you use an opt-in form, you should include the program details listedabove.

Requirements for Recurring SMS Programs

Part 2 of your SMS compliance checklist includes rules for recurring text programs.

Write Clear Terms and Conditions and Display Them Frequently

Complaints often arise when customers forget they’ve signed up for text message marketing lists.

Avoid this issue by promoting your text message marketing terms and conditions and privacy policy in as many places as possible, including:

  • Your website
  • Inside your physical business
  • On landing pages used to collect opt-ins

Set Appropriate Message Times

If you start sending coupon codes at 4 a.m., you'll probably end up with lots of angry customers and unsubscribes. Don’t send SMS messages during obscure hours.

Inform Subscribers When You Change Your Program

If you change your terms and conditions in any way, you'll need to inform your subscribers and ask them to reply CONTINUE or YES to confirm their continued consent.

Include the Program Name in Every Message

Every text should include your business or program name, and STOP instructions are highly recommended in all messages to ensure contacts know how to opt out.

Keep Your SMS Campaigns Compliant With CallFire

SMS marketing is a great way to relay important information to your customers and encourage two-way communication. But if you want to build a healthy list of subscribers and avoid legal trouble, you need to follow the rules.

CallFire helps businesses of all sizes increase customer retention and drastically improve marketing ROI through low costt SMS marketing.

Ready to get started? Sign up for your free CallFire account today.

DISCLAIMER: While the author has made efforts to provide accurate information, this article is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for legal advice. Please seek guidance from your own legal counsel to learn how the FCC regulations apply to your particular situation, and what steps you must take to be compliant with these and other regulations.