You love your customers and we want them to love you, too! At Bespeak, our goal is engagement and delight at every step of the customer journey. A quick way to harm a relationship is to overstep boundaries, not to mention that your business could be breaking laws.
Here is an overview of text marketing regulations to ensure you are CTIA and TCPA compliant.
DISCLAIMER: Please note that this document is provided for informational purposes only and is neither intended nor should be substituted for consultation with appropriate legal counsel and your business or organization’s regulatory compliance team.
Who regulates text messaging?
Before we get into compliance, it is important to understand the regulating bodies involved.
TCPA stands for the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and was passed in 1991 to protect consumers from bothersome intrusions like canned telephone calls and texts.
CTIA is the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association and compliance includes best practices for SMS, multimedia messaging service (MMS), and free-to-end-user (FTEU) short code programs. The objective of CTIA compliance is to provide the best customer experience for end users.
What happens if you do not follow the rules?
It’s important for your business to follow the guidelines set out by the TCPA and CTIA. Why? The TCPA is federal law. Customers may bring suit in local small claims court or state court for damages up to $500 for each violation. Case in point, the recent legal action against Jiffy Lube. This long-time express mechanic had to pay a $47 million settlement for sending just one text message to 2.3 million customers asking for their consent to send them further text messages.
If your business sends multiple texts to thousands of users, that could add up for you, too. And, it’s not just large companies that are under scrutiny. There are entire law firms devoted to the job of suing violators of the TCPA act. The CTIA also performs regular audits of text messaging campaigns, based on the most recent guidelines found in the CTIA Short Code Compliance Handbook. If a text messaging campaign is found to be in violation of any of the guidelines in the CTIA Short Code Compliance Handbook, the text messaging campaign can be deactivated by the wireless carriers.
In short, the TCPA requires that businesses and organizations must receive PRIOR written consent from individuals before sending SMS/text messages to them. CTIA audit standards indicate that there must be:
- A link to comprehensive terms and conditions (T&Cs)
- A STOP keyword offered
- Mention that message and data rates may apply
An existing relationship does not qualify as a consent to text! Recently we were asked by partners if they could upload a document with a list of customer phone numbers to the Bespeak platform in order to send an opt-in message. Unfortunately, this reverse opt-in breaks the law, because they are soliciting an opt-in without prior permission, similar to Jiffy Lube. Written consent must be obtained prior to your first text, even for your best customers who you know will want to participate.
Make sure your customers have given prior written consent to any text messages you send. Consent can be written or electronic. Records to prove that consent was given must be kept for five years. Opt-out instructions must also be provided. If you will be sending frequent updates, it is best practice to be clear with expectations and let your subscribers know what they will receive and how often messages might be sent, which can be as easy as saying something like “Sign up for (weekly) offers here.”
Four ways customers can opt-in are:
- Your Bespeak kiosk!
- If you want to ensure all users from a previous software program are uploaded, the easiest way is to send a broadcast from the previous/existing program inviting subscribers to text “your keyword” to “your shortcode” to join a new, dynamic loyalty and text alerts program for your merchant. Offer your best deal for them as an incentive for doing so. (This is the best and easiest way to sign up existing customers.)
- Have a section of your website where you promote that you have a text marketing program. List your number publically on your website so they can text you to opt in.
- Old-fashioned written permission. You maintain a pen and paper list at your business and keep records for five years.
Your first message
Once you have express written consent, you must send a new transaction campaign message stating, “XXXXX (your business name) has a new alerts and rewards program. Reply ‘KEYWORD’ to join. Message and data rates apply. Reply ‘STOP’ to cancel. Reply ‘HELP’ for help. Here is a link to terms and conditions (provide T&C web address).” For Bespeak users, a TCPA and CTIA compliant message with all the required information has already been uploaded and sends out automatically for anyone who opts in at a Bespeak kiosk.
While some other text marketing programs out there may seem to be more “user friendly,” when it comes to uploading customer data, our focus is on protecting our partners and their customers from potential lawsuits by following strict compliance guidelines. Following these best practices will ensure that your customer relationship is clearly defined. Please contact Bespeak if you have any further questions. Happy texting!
If you don’t have an SMS text message marketing program and want to start capitalizing on the proven effectiveness of a mobile marketing customer relationship, please contact us here.
Looking for further information? The Data and Marketing Association has a helpful document in great detail regarding marketing industry standards.