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    The Complete TCPA Compliance Checklist for Business Messaging

    SMS mass messaging is a powerful tool that allows you to reach your contacts immediately, and as such, is highly regulated. While sending mass text messages and automated calls to an audience for promotional purposes is not illegal, there are heavy restrictions in place to protect users from spam and unfair marketing practices.

    In 1991, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was introduced. The TCPA stipulates that to send any automated messages to individuals for marketing purposes, companies must receive written consent. The only exception is if a contact has given the company prior express written consent. At Text-Em-All, we do not allow text message marketing messages or automated phone call promotional messages, and we want to ensure that our clients do not send unwanted messages. That being said, many of the restrictions put in place in the TCPA are good rules of thumb to follow for any organizations using our platform.

    Under the TCPA, there are certain messages that are exempt from regulations. If you’re a client planning to use our service, you will be exempt from TCPA regulations.

    Exceptions include:

    • Financial organizations that need to send out security updates
    • Healthcare providers sending appointment reminders or information regarding results
    • Utility businesses that are sending updates for services
    • Staffing agencies that are sending out job openings

    Ultimately, if an organization is sending out urgent updates or emergency messages, they will be exempt. As such, TCPA restrictions do not impact the service we offer to clients. 

    TCPA Restrictions And Requirements For Sending Out Promotional Messages

    Express Written Consent 

    The first step for a business that sends out promotional messages is to gain written consent to add an individual to a subscription list and send messages. This consent needs to be both documented and saved. 

    Online and paper forms are one of the ways that a business can have contacts express written consent. This form will state the individual is agreeing to receive messages from the company. 

    Businesses can also use a check box on an online form. However, the box cannot be pre-checked. Individuals must be provided with the option to select the check box themselves before agreeing.

    While the TCPA does not provide a definition of express consent, it is considered to match this requirement if it is given in the form of oral or written permission. 

    After a contact provides written consent, it is a smart idea to send a confirmation message alerting the contact that they have opted-in to your messages. This makes SMS marketing less likely commit TCPA violations.

    A customer may also provide implied express consent. For instance, a customer may contact a business by text about an issue. It’s acceptable to assume that the company can respond to this text message. However, a response should only refer to the original topic of their message. They can not market or send any other type of sms messages to a customer that has only provided implied express consent. 

    Using our service, written consent is not a requirement. However, we do not provide the option of using opt-in features such as sending a keyword to join a contact group. This can ease your mind by ensuring your contacts have all agreed to receive messages, but it is not necessary. If you are using other messaging platforms to send marketing or promotional messages, you will need to obtain written consent.

    Provide Disclosure 

    The next step is to ensure that customers are provided with full disclosure. This can be provided in the form of an opt-in text message. It must cover various key details including:

    • The name of the business
    • Message frequency 
    • Access to terms and conditions
    • Instructions to opt out
    • Purpose of messaging
    • Support options to gain help
    • Any relevant data rate notices

    It is important to ensure that this disclosure form is as clear as possible. If there is the potential for confusion or miscommunication, businesses can face legal issues. 

    Communicate Terms And Conditions Clearly 

    Under the TCPA, the “terms and conditions” of a messaging policy should be easy for customers to access. It’s easy for contacts to forget that they subscribed to messages from your company, so it’s important for businesses to remind users about the legality of their messaging. A good way to do this is through a link to the terms and conditions in the first text. After this, businesses using promotion should remind users regularly how they can access the terms and conditions. If terms and conditions change at any point, companies should also notify customers who have opted-in immediately. 

    Keep Opting Out Simple 

    The method customers can use to opt-out should be as simple and clear as possible. The best opt-out method is providing users with the option to text “STOP” to unsubscribe. They should be provided with the option to do this after each message that a business sends out. The first text message sent to customers should also include clear opt-out instructions which explains how consumers can do this. Providing consumers with the ability to opt out is a necessity stipulated in the TCPA for promotional messages.

    Customers should be able to opt out immediately. Ideally, the process should be automated and happen as soon as they send the ‘STOP’ message. 

    We want to make sure that no one receives unsolicited calls or unwanted messages from companies using our platform. That’s why we provide our comprehensive opt out solution. Contacts can text STOP, QUIT, END, CANCEL, UNSUBSCRIBE or STOP ALL to unsubscribe. In addition, we provide auto opt outs in which our system detects inbound messages which clearly show an intent to opt out. We will opt these contacts out for you. This makes it easy for users to stop receiving messages from your company or organization. 

    Maintain Records

    Keeping records of who has and hasn’t opted into SMS communications can ensure your business isn’t left open to liability issues. If you go this route, this should be updated regularly to ensure that you always have an accurate list of the individuals and organizations that have opted in.

    This is a good practice regardless of whether it is a requirement for the type of messages you are sending. 

    Respect Message Times

    Under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, it is illegal for businesses to send promotional texts or call before 8:00 AM or after 9:00 PM. Essentially, organizations need to ensure that they are keeping things within normal business hours. If they fail to do this, a company will not be compliant with TCPA guidelines and they could also irritate or anger customers. 

    Unless it’s an emergency situation, this is also a good practice for our customers to implement.

    Make Every Aspect Of Your Messages Clear

    Every part of any message that a business sends out should be clear and easy to understand. This includes calls-to-action. If a business is using CTAs as part of their SMS messaging, it needs to be obvious. They need to state directly the action that they want customers to take. The messages should also include information about the purpose of the communication and any other relevant information. 

    The nature of a text message is short: a quick way to send summarized information from one person to another. A good rule of thumb is that if it doesn’t fit within character limits, there’s probably some unnecessary information included.

    For automated phone calls, a good rule of thumb is that the message should not be over 2 minutes long. If the message needs to be longer, it's probably best to conduct the call live.

    Honor The National Do Not Call Registry

    It is illegal to contact anyone who is part of the National Do Not Call Registry. This includes contact by both phone calls and text messaging. 

    As well as respecting this list, it’s important for a business to keep their own do-not contact list as well. There will always be individuals who do not want to hear from a company about promotions, even though they may not be on the national registry. If they make this clear to a brand, the business needs to respect their wishes.

    A Checklist For Sending Out Any Important Messages

    If you are using mass messages to contact people to send out emergency updates or key information such as appointments the requirements above will not be applicable. However, these are still important things to consider when you send out your message.

    Think About How You Communicate

    It is important to consider how to approach communications. First, make sure that you are including your business name in all messages that you send out. It needs to be clear that the message is being sent directly from your brand or company. This will reduce the amount of opt-outs and spam reporting.

    In addition, it's important to think about how your audience wants you to communicate. If you audience prefers phone calls, it may be a good idea for you company to use an automatic telephone dialing system. However, if your contacts prefer text messages, it's a good idea to use a mass text messaging system.

    Our system offers both of these options, as well as a combo service where you can send an automated phone call and a mass text message simultaneously.

    Hold Your Messages To A High Standard

    You should put effort into the messages that you send out, and you should have an established business relationship with your contacts. They should reach the right level of quality without any mistakes. In addition, your messages should feel professional and convey the specific information that your customers, clients or group members require. 

    Choose The Right Company

    If you are sending out messages to business clients or members of your organization, it’s important to find the right business messaging service. At Text-Em-All we take pride in delivering a high quality mass messaging solution that you and your customers can trust. 

    Since we don’t allow promotional content to be sent out using our service, the majority of the TCPA restrictions are not directly applicable. However, we do still provide key options such as allowing members of group messages to opt in and out. Using our service you can send out emergency messages, important notifications and job openings and so much more. We make it easy to stay in contact with the people that matter, and make sure your important messages arrive quickly.

    Summary 

    We hope this helps you understand how businesses can remain compliant with the TCPA when sending out promotional messages to customers. As our service is based on ensuring that only people who want to hear from your company are contacted with key information, these restrictions do not apply when using our solution. Instead, we provide a way to provide information that your customers and clients need without any delays or issues. 

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    Ron Kinkade

    Ron Kinkade is the Director of Marketing at Text-Em-All, an automated calling and group texting company that provides solutions for small and medium-sized businesses, large corporations, membership organizations, community groups, and individuals. Ron has more than 15 years of experience with a proven track record of success. Ron enjoys bass fishing, beach vacations, and spending time with family.

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