SMS is a powerful tool that instantly lets you reach your contacts. However, as such, it is highly regulated to balance its effectiveness with protecting users’ privacy and preventing spam and unethical marketing practices.
While sending mass text messages and automated calls to an audience for promotional purposes is not illegal, these regulatory measures aim to establish guidelines and boundaries that businesses must adhere to. These regulations safeguard consumers from intrusive or misleading communication while fostering a fair and transparent environment.
One of the key regulations in the United States is the TCPA, which sets standards for telemarketing communications, including text messages and automated calls. This article dives into the TCPA’s key provisions, offering insights into its scope and significance in responsible messaging. You’ll also get an SMS compliance checklist to help you ensure your messaging practices meet these requirements.
Table of Contents
What is TCPA?
TCPA stands for the Telephone Consumer Protection Act and was initially introduced in 1991. 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.
TCPA guidelines apply to:
- Voice calls made by automatic telephone dialing systems, commonly known as robocalls. These include promotional calls, telemarketing calls, and prerecorded voice messages.
- Calls made by call centers for marketing or promotional purposes.
- Text messages sent for marketing purposes or promotional purposes. This includes SMS (Short Message Service) and MMS (Multimedia Messaging Service) messages.
- Fax advertisements for marketing or promotional purposes.
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 in the TCPA are good rules of thumb to follow for any organization using our platform.
Exceptions to TCPA Regulations
Under the TCPA, certain messages are exempt from regulations. If you’re a client planning to use our service, you will be exempt from TCPA regulations.
- Financial organizations
- Healthcare providers
- Utility businesses
- Staffing agencies
- Schools and universities
These types of organizations send messages that their contacts sign up for and want to receive, such as security updates, appointment reminders, service outages, job openings, and closure alerts. Ultimately, if an organization is sending out urgent updates or emergency messages, they will be exempt. However, the guidelines in the TCPA are still highly beneficial to our clients as they’re a great outline of how to write clear and compelling messages.
Your Complete TCPA Compliance Checklist
- Obtain Express Written Consent
- Disclose Message Type and Frequency to Your Subscribers
- Communicate Terms And Conditions Clearly
- Keep Opting Out Simple
- Maintain Records
- Send Marketing Messages Only During Business Hours
- Make Every Aspect Of Your Messages Clear
- Honor the National Do Not Call Registry
Obtain Express Written Consent: Ensure you have documented consent from individuals before sending marketing messages. Written consent provides a clear record of permission.
Disclose Message Type and Frequency to Your Subscribers: Inform subscribers about the type of messages they'll receive (e.g., promotional, informational) and how often they can expect to hear from you.
Communicate Terms And Conditions Clearly: Clearly state the terms and conditions of your messaging program, including any costs or obligations for subscribers.
Keep Opting Out Simple: Make it easy for subscribers to opt out of receiving messages. Provide clear instructions for unsubscribing and promptly honor opt-out requests.
Maintain Records: Keep detailed records of consent, opt-in, and opt-out requests. This documentation helps demonstrate compliance if needed.
Send Marketing Messages Only During Business Hours: Respect subscribers' privacy by sending marketing messages only during reasonable hours, typically within business hours. Keep in mind potential time zone differences.
Make Every Aspect Of Your Messages Clear: Craft messages that are concise, clear, and easily understandable. Avoid misleading or ambiguous content.
Honor the National Do Not Call Registry: Ensure you do not send marketing messages to individuals who have registered their numbers on the National Do Not Call Registry. Respect their preference for privacy.
Best Practices for Maintaining TCPA Compliance
Ensuring SMS compliance is not only a legal requirement but also a crucial element of maintaining trust and ethical communication with your audience. Follow these best practices to mitigate legal risk.
1. Think About How You Communicate
It is essential 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 your audience prefers phone calls, it may be a good idea for your company to use an automatic telephone dialing system. However, using a mass text messaging system is a good idea if your contacts prefer text messages.
Our system offers both options and a combo service where you can simultaneously send an automated phone call and a mass text message.
2. Hold Your Messages To A High Standard
You should put effort into your messages and establish a 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 your customers, clients, or group members require.
3. Choose The Right Company
If you are sending out messages to business clients or members of your organization, it’s crucial to find the right business messaging service. Text-Em-All takes pride in delivering a high-quality mass messaging solution you and your customers can trust.
Since we don’t allow promotional content on our platform, most TCPA restrictions are not directly applicable. However, we still provide key options, such as allowing members of group messages to opt in and out. Using our service, you can send emergency messages, important notifications, job openings, and more. We make it easy to stay in contact with the people who matter and ensure your important messages arrive quickly.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does TCPA apply to text messages?
Yes, the TCPA applies to text messages, pre-recorded calls, auto-dialed calls, and fax messages.
What is the fine for a violation of the TCPA?
The fines for violations of the TCPA can vary depending on the nature and severity of the violation, and they range between $500 and $1,500 per violation. Each phone call or text message counts as an individual violation, meaning businesses can accrue significant fines if they aren’t careful.
In addition to federal TCPA regulations, some states have telemarketing and privacy laws that may impose additional fines and penalties for violations.
Does TCPA apply to business customers?
Since the TCPA primarily focuses on protecting consumers from unwanted telemarketing calls, auto-dialed calls, pre-recorded calls, and unsolicited text messages, it typically does not apply in the same way to business customers as it does to individual consumers.
Does TCPA apply to business-to-business calls?
Generally, the TCPA does not apply to business-to-business calls. The TCPA primarily regulates telemarketing calls and text messages made to residential lines and wireless phone numbers for non-commercial purposes.
Does TCPA apply to manually dialed calls?
Manually dialed calls, where a human operator initiates the call and dials the numbers without using an automated system, are generally not subject to the TCPA's regulations, provided that they do not involve prerecorded messages or automated dialing equipment.
How long does TCPA consent last?
As long as TCPA consent is validly obtained and not revoked by the individual, it can be considered effective for the duration of the business relationship or until the individual chooses to withdraw their consent.
Implementing a TCPA Compliant Messaging Solution
We hope this helps you understand how businesses can comply with the TCPA when sending 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.
Ready to take the next step in your compliance journey or explore our TCPA-compliant messaging solutions? Connect with us today to learn more or sign up for a free trial and experience the power of compliant messaging firsthand.