Since the FCC issued a clarification about the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) in July 2015, the only thing that’s clear about how it views text messaging is that it’s confusing. Senders and users of SMS – our customers — simply haven’t received the kind of clarity that they need to make decisions about their business.
Understanding the TCPA rules and how to avoid issues
There have been debates about rules, procedures and possibly fines that could be imposed if you are not properly adhering properly to the rules. We don’t expect you, our customers, to keep up with all of this… it’s not your business.
Text messaging is OUR business so we feel an obligation to clear it up. With our thanks to the superb guidance of attorney Michael Hazzard of Arent Fox, we’ve been able to distill this down to three simple guidelines.
When you are going to send messages of the following types here are the requirement guidelines:
- Marketing messages: Require an opt-in. (The fine print: If the text message you’re sending contains language that says or implies a purchase, discount, freebie, coupon for something, an “order this and get that free” — you MUST have the prior express written permission of the mobile user before sending them a text message. This is called an “opt-in” in industry vernacular and you can get it a number of different ways but in the end you must have a documented approval from that mobile user agreeing to allow you to send them this type of message.)
- Informational messages: Requires that the mobile user has given you their cell phone number in the normal course of doing business. (The fine print: If the mobile user has given you their number when they signed up for an account, asked for customer support or in any other capacity you can send them messages containing informative content, NOT marketing offers, without the additional step of requesting or receiving prior express written permission or an opt-in.)
- Emergency messages: You need not have received an opt-in or even the mobile number to which you are sending from the mobile user. In essence you could have gotten the mobile number from any source. (The fine print: Emergency messages – which include spot power outages, storm alerts, planned outages, security breaches, etc. – that would benefit the mobile user do not require any kind of opt-in, number submission or permission of any kind. You can get the number from the mobile user or elsewhere and send messages containing emergency content. No opt-in is required. )
Full video of the webinar about TCPA and utilities he conducted is here:
Finally, we believe that choice is a good thing and encourage our senders to regularly include information for their customers about how to stop messages from being sent to them.
Regardless of the rules just including a simple “Reply HELP for more and STOP to quit” goes a long way towards keeping your mobile users satisfied and avoiding any complaints.