Creating a fully compliant SMS/text marketing depends entirely on the country (or countries) in which you’re operating, and the laws that apply to the sending of text messages (or commercial electronic messages – SMS may be “lumped in” with email and other digital communications).
We serve the U.S. and Canada, so we’re familiar with CASL (Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation) and the U.S.’s T.C.P.A (Telephone Consumer Protection Act). In these two countries, compliance centers on the “permission status” of the subscriber.
I have an in-depth article that provides a solid overview of both laws.
The biggest “misconception” about permission status that I see with business owners is that they believe they are entitled to contact a customer if they have engaged in a business transaction of some sort in the past.
In the U.S. this is not true. Unless you receive specific permission from your customer allowing you to contact them, you have no right to do so, transaction or no.
In Canada, engaging in business transaction with a customer provides you with “implied” consent; you may contact your customer for a period of two years if the transaction occurred after July 1, 2014 (the implementation of CASL) or 3 years if it occurred prior to the implementation of the new law. If your customer engages in another business transaction with you within that time period, the clock is “reset.” If she does not, your permission will expire.
The key then, is getting your contacts to provide “express consent.” See my article for more details.
3 Compliance Related Issues You Must Consider
1. Messaging Requirements
You will need to include an opt-out option in every message (i.e., Reply STOP to end) and possibly more. CASL, for example, requires a link to information that identifies the sender. You will need to ensure that the person who unsubscribes can do so with a single step so that once that person requests a cancellation, no further steps from her are required to complete the process.
2. Expired & Reassigned Phone Numbers
Dealing with expired phone numbers can be a pain.
Occasionally a phone number will be taken out of service (a client obtains a new phone and accompanying phone number) and then later, gets reassigned to a different person.
Since the new “owner” of this number did not provide you with permission to contact them, if you send them a message, you are spamming them.
How do you deal with this?
While there are databases you can query, these are of limited use if all you have to identify a customer is a phone number from an handset initiated opt-in (or in other words, the person grabbed their phone and subscribed to your service).
The other way to address this is to track failed numbers. Since there’s a grace period before “retired” numbers are re-assigned to a new user, numbers that fail multiple times may be an indication that the number has been retired. Pulling such numbers out of rotation prevents unintentional spamming, eliminates the risk of regulatory and civil actions, and protects the integrity of the client.
Mobile industry Compliance Issues
In Canada and the U.S., if you are using short codes, you will have to adhere to the guidelines of the CTIA (aka “the mobile industry”).
Yes, in addition to abiding to the laws of the land that govern the sending of commercial electronic messages. Cool, huh? And the best part is the industry conducts occasional audits to ensure compliance.
Some examples of CTIA compliance requirements?
You’ll need to keep subscribe and unsubcribe requests on file for a minimum of 6 months, to prevent unauthenic spam complaints from being made.
You will also need to ensure that people who are attempting to unsubscribe but misspell system commands like STOP (i.e., STOO which you could easily do by hitting an extra O instead of a P) are flagged and unsubscribed accordingly. On our system, for example, we have an algorithym that ranks incoming words on their likelihood of being a command. We get flagged with an email if its high enough, and are then obligated to remove the subscriber manually.
Those are just two examples.
In short, there’s a lot to think about.
Heck, I could write 3 more pages of content about the things you have to consider.
But why on earth would you create your own solution when there’s a much easier solution?
What’s the Solution?
We’ve already built an SMS marketing and bulk texting service that addresses ALL of the compliance issues. Why not have a look at our offerings and save yourself a ton of headaches?
Or connect with us and explain what it is that your business needs and we’ll point you at the right solution.