Is mass texting my customers legal?
Thinking about incorporating mass texting or phone messaging into your marketing strategy, but feel apprehensive about the proper guidelines? Many businesses are turning to SMS messaging campaigns as an affordable tactic for improving brand awareness, engagement, and loyalty among their customer base. From a legal standpoint, however, many organizations are scratching their heads when it comes to knowing what appropriate vs. inappropriate texting practices are.
Although mass texting isn’t illegal, there are regulations enacted by the U.S. government to protect consumer privacy. The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, which outlines acceptable telemarketing practices, is relevant to any businesses that plan to use mass text messaging for commercial purposes. The legislation restricts the following:
- An organization may not call or text any individual registered in the National Do Not Call Registry.
- A recipient may not be called before 8 AM or after 9 PM (per the individual’s local time).
- Automated calling to the following types of businesses is prohibited: healthcare facilities, hospitals, doctor’s offices, and emergency services.
- A reply option or callback number must be provided.
- Any communication that charges the recipient a fee is prohibited.
- Any business deploying mass calls or text messages must identify who they are and the purpose of the outreach.
- Recorded calls of residences are prohibited unless the recipient has provided consent via opting in.
- Any company using mass call or text messaging must keep an updated DNC (Do Not Call) list and honor opt-out requests for a minimum of 5 years.
- Any company in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act automatically grants the recipient the right to sue up to $1,500 for each unsolicited call or text received.
Problems That Arose from the 1991 Act
The legislation faced a number of issues due to the loose definition of ‘prior consent.’ The act was interpreted in a variety of ways, including companies viewing implied consent (rather than explicit) as permission to deploy their telemarketing communication.
Amendments Made in 2013
In October of 2013, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act was revised to better protect consumer privacy, making specific amendments around SMS marketing. Moving forward, companies must explicitly be given prior written consent by a recipient in order to legally contact that individual. While this new regulation may at first seem strict, the trust is, it is just as beneficial to companies as it is to the consumer. This is because as a business, the last thing you would want to do is damage your brand’s reputation by pestering consumers with unsolicited communication.
If your company decides to hop on the SMS marketing bandwagon, you’ll need to be mindful of the new TCPA restrictions placed on mass text messaging. Here are some helpful practices to abide by.
- Be very succinct when requesting consent from an individual to avoid any miscommunication.
- Along similar lines, verbal consent won’t hold up in court. You must receive written consent. Make sure to disclose how frequently the recipient will be contacted prior to getting their consent.
- Recipients must be provided with a very clear way to opt-out or unsubscribe from your communication – this should be included in every text that individual receives.
- Keep an updated log of all those who have unsubscribed.
- You must identify your business as the sender of the text message. All SMS content must be specific to your business (a.k.a. no surprise ‘partner’ promotions)
By using a reputable company to help you craft and deploy your mass text messaging campaign, you will protect your business from any unwanted fines and ensure your brand is perceived in a positive light.
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