TCPA guidelines for text marketing in USA
Text marketing is a fast and cost-efficient way of reaching your customers, compared to calling, which is labor intensive. As most people get overwhelmed by the huge number of mails sitting in their inbox, chances of them opening a text from you are higher than the chances of them opening a mail from you.
Mobile coupons are redeemed 10x more than other redeemable coupons. And, 90% of customers who have signed up for text based loyalty programs have been satisfied with their experience. Most of our clients see a significant rise in lead conversions soon after they begin bulk texting for the first time. However, you must ensure that your messages meet guidelines for text marketing.
Who regulates text messages?
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the apex body in the US for regulating communications by satellite, wire, radio, television and cable, so text marketing also falls in its territory.
Why does the TCPA apply to texts?
Text messages are considered transactions similar to phone calls, so they too fall under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which is the main anti-telemarketing law in the U.S. Short codes or 5-6 digit numbers which enable companies to send marketing messages to consumers, were created to avoid text spam reaching the levels which email spam has reached.
What is spam?
Here’s what the TCPA says-
The term “unsolicited advertisement” means any material advertising the commercial availability or quality of any property, goods, or services which is transmitted to any person without that person’s prior express invitation or permission, in writing or otherwise.
How can you avoid your texts being considered spam?
According to the FCC, a company can’t use an autodialer to send texts to a customer’s mobile, unless he has previously given his consent to receive the text or the text has been sent in case of an emergency.
Getting the customer’s consent for text marketing
For commercial texts, the customer’s consent should be in writing. You need to disclose clearly that the customer will be contacted in the future by text message. Make sure you keep this consent form for at least four years, which is the statute of limitations given by the TCPA.
This written consent can be in the form of a physical signed agreement, a digitally signed agreement or SMS opt-in. The terms and conditions should be mentioned prominently and clearly to tell the customers that-
- By acknowledging or signing the agreement, the customer is authorizing the company to send marketing messages to his phone number.
- Signing the agreement is not required as a condition to buy any goods, services or property.
A company can obtain a customer’s signature in any way that is compliant with federal and state law, such as text message, email, voice recording, website form, or telephone key press. If you’re giving a link to a landing page, check box fields should be unchecked.
Essentials for ad asking for prospect/customer mobile numbers
In any ad in which you ask for a buyer’s mobile number, you need to disclose
- The name of the program, its description and message frequency
For instance, look at this ad-
After a customer sees your ad and opts-in by sending a text message to a short code with the required keyword, you have to send a text message in reply which is also compliant legally.
BELLA: Here’s your $10 off coupon. Code: 43223. Upto 6 msgs/month. Reply HELP for help or STOP to cancel. Msg&data rates may apply. T&C bella.com/tnc
- Mention your company name
- Give the coupon or value proposition
- Mention the frequency of messages that will be sent monthly
- Disclose possible carrier costs and fees
- Give an option to ask for help and opt out of future texts
Other precautions for bulk texting
Ensure that the content matches the content signed up for in the first opt-in message. If you don’t send a message to a customer within 18 months of him opting-in to your text marketing program, your campaign is considered inactive.
Contests, sweepstakes and lotteries are governed by state laws, which can vary from state to state. Consult a lawyer to make sure you’re on the right side of the law. Carriers are not keen to run contests so get permission from them beforehand.
What are the exceptions to getting permission for text marketing?
If a customer has asked for some information, you don’t need his permission to send him that information via text. However, you can only send a single message immediately after he makes this request. Your message should contain only the information he has requested, without any other marketing or advertising information.
You also get a one text exception to see whether a number has been reassigned to another subscriber.
What are the consequences of text spamming?
You might have to cough up $500 for each marketing text that you send without getting permission from the recipient. If he files a suit against you and the court thinks that you knowingly violated the law regarding text marketing, you may have to fork out $1500 for each SMS the court considers spam.
The TCPA says-
(3) PRIVATE RIGHT OF ACTION.—A person or entity may, if otherwise permitted by the laws or rules of court of a State, bring in an appropriate court of that State—
(A) an action based on a violation of this subsection or the regulations prescribed under this subsection to enjoin such violation,
(B) an action to recover for actual monetary loss from such a violation, or to receive $500 in damages for each such violation, whichever is greater, or
(C) both such actions. If the court finds that the defendant willfully or knowingly violated this subsection or the regulations prescribed under this subsection, the court may, in its discretion, increase the amount of the award to an amount equal to not more than 3 times the amount available under subparagraph (B) of this paragraph.
Papa John’s paid $16.3 million to settle a class action suit brought against it for sending unsolicited pizza promotion texts.
Additionally, violating the terms and conditions of your text program can alienate customers, increasing optouts. This can snowball in negative publicity, social media disasters, etc.
However, if you text intelligently, you can grow your customer base while complying with the TCPA.
What are the SMS best practices that you should follow while text marketing?
Mention opt-out instructions at least once a month, in your marketing texts program. Acknowledge opt-out requests. By doing so, you reassure your customer that you’ve received his or her request to opt-out and will act on it. Keep an eye on your procedures to confirm the opt-out has been done. You can send one last message to tell your customer that the opt-out has been successful.
Customer care contact details should also be mentioned a minimum of once a month in your text marketing.
Now that you know the guidelines for text marketing, it should be easy for you to comply with the law. Text your customers the way you would like to be texted. So go ahead, run that SMS promotion you’ve thought of!
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