Text Message Advertising Compliance

Apr 3, 2017

Katie Castillo-Wilson

Katie Castillo-Wilson

TapOnIt Founder + CEO

Text Message

With the consistent growth in mobile reach and the fact that 98% of all text messages are opened, it’s really not surprising that there are many people and companies getting started in the mobile marketing space. But just over the past couple of weeks, I’ve been informed of more and more texting companies popping up. This causes me a bit of concern…

These companies are out pitching small local businesses on building their own texting databases for customer retention, which can be a great tool, but what the businesses don’t know is that not all texting companies are following the rules nor realize what the consequences can be if they are broken.

So, I thought it made sense to help point out some of the things to watch for when choosing a partner in text message advertising.

Text message advertising comes with responsibilities.

When companies use a short code number to reach current or potential customers, inform their followers of company updates, or send deals or campaigns to a specific list of people, they must follow a specific set of rules.

While many companies are taking advantage of this quick and easy way to reach consumers, there are others out there that might not exactly be following the rules, whether they know it or not. The guidelines and regulations for sending single or recurring SMS or MMS messages to consumers have been established in the past several years by the CTIA.

The CTIA is an organization that is focused on “everything wireless” including SMS and MMS text messaging through short codes. CTIA publishes a monitoring handbook for text messaging companies and frequently updates their rules and guidelines. Their main goal is to protect consumers from companies that abuse short code programs. With updates occurring all the time, many companies may be following requirements from past editions or may not be aware of new additions.

According to their short code handbook, “CTIA and its member companies work to protect consumers while fostering a competitive environment for short code programs. We aim to: Provide consumers the best possible user experience; Honor consumer choices and prevent abuse of messaging platforms; Deliver flexible guidelines that communicate compliance values clearly; Enable the short code industry to self-regulate; and Facilitate enforcement measures, if necessary, to protect consumers quickly and consistently.” (Latest handbook version updated July 15, 2016)

In the monitoring handbook by CTIA, numerous categories for text-messaging compliance are covered. These include:

·      Guiding Principles – display clear call-to-actions, offer clear opt-in and opt-out information, acknowledge opt-out requests

·      Choice and Consent – have full transparency to subscribers of what they are subscribing to

·      Customer Care – include customer care information; at least a HELP keyword option

·      Program Content – promoting a positive user experience

·      Privacy Policy, Terms and Conditions – protect the privacy of the user and display policies

·      Program Name & Product Description – keep the product, company name and brand consistent

·      Program Records & Functionality – maintain accurate records & Common Short Code Association registry

·      Type of Program – single-message, recurring-message, etc.

·      And many more categories with specific sets of rules! Like political programs, donation programs, MMS programs, etc.

There is also auditing information contained within CTIA’s monitoring handbook, such as a description of violations and penalties, which are based on the severity of violations. The severity of audit notices ranges from the highest, level 0, which causes extreme consumer harm, to level 1, for serious consumer harm, or level 2, for moderate consumer harm. The penalties vary by case and whether previous audit notices have been served to the company, and can result in fines, suspension or termination of the short code.

Some of the most common mistakes of text messaging companies are things like: not maintaining records, sending unwarranted messages and not containing the right verbiage in a message. Make sure that you are aware of the rules with opting people in and out of your programs!

Some of the most common mistakes of text messaging companies are things like: not maintaining records, sending unwarranted messages and not containing the right verbiage in a message.

By following the guidelines for text message compliance, you’ll ensure that your company is playing by the rules and not causing unintended harm to consumers. Make sure that you do your research before committing to a text messaging company or sending out a mobile offer from a new advertising agency. At TapOnIt Mobile Deals, we take our subscriber’s privacy and the rules very seriously. We are happy to be transparent with our clients and help them understand how text message campaigns work. At TapOnIt, we are experts in advising small businesses on how best to advertise their business using the power of mobile, while staying compliant with texting rules. 

So, in case you aren’t interested in reading the 27-page long CTIA handbook yourself, turn to us for help! We stay current and help prevent violations.