SMS Messaging Compliance: Principles & Best Practices

Once thought of as informal, texting is now considered one of the best ways to communicate professionally. Yet as business SMS volumes increase, so do regulations, and if you’re using SMS for business, you want to make sure that your message gets through. Paying attention to the legal requirements and industry best practices will help avoid issues and build customer trust.

Let's dive into the details, starting with important terminology.

Terms to Know

A2P 10DLC: Application-to-Person messaging with local US phone numbers (10 digit local codes). The CTIA expanded A2P from application or automated messaging to all business/cloud communications in 2019.

Consumer vs Non-Consumer: The messaging industry identifies wireless or mobile numbers not used for business or commercial purposes as Consumer usage. All messaging through cloud communication providers like Dialpad is considered non-consumer messaging and is subject to A2P 10DLC requirements.

Campaign: The motivation or purpose for messaging any Consumer.

TCPA: The Telephone Consumer Protection Act

FCC: The Federal Communications Commission - an independent agency of the United States federal government that regulates communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable across the United States

CTIA: Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association - a trade association representing the wireless communications industry in the United States.

Checklist of Best Practices for Sending SMS/MMS

Our goal is to set you up for success! Be sure to read through our handy SMS and MMS Best Practice checklist below.

  • The recipients have provided consent (opted-in)
  • The message clearly identifies who the sender is
  • A clear call to action describing the purpose and impact of the action
  • The message content has been verified not to fit into any of the restricted use-cases
  • Your Dialpad Admin registered this messaging campaign

Opt-in

Opt-in, opt-out, what does it really mean? Put simply, when you Opt-In, you're giving permission for something, and in the case of opt-in text messaging, this refers to the recipient allowing you to send texts directly to them.

The messaging ecosystem needs to comply with relevant local laws and regulations, such as the TCPA and associated FCC regulations regarding consumer consent for communications. Regardless of whether these rules apply, and to maintain consumer confidence in messaging services, non-consumer (A2P) message senders should be sure to do the following:

  • Obtain a consumer’s consent to receive messages generally;
  • Obtain a consumer’s express written consent to specifically receive marketing messages; and
  • Ensure consumers have the ability to revoke consent.

Consent varies depending on the type of message.

The following table demonstrates the different types of messaging content and the associated consent required.

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Individual service providers may adopt additional consumer protection measures for non-consumer (A2P) message senders, which may include, for example, campaign pre-approval, service provider vetting, in-market audits, or unwanted message filtering practices which are tailored to facilitate the exchange of wanted messaging traffic.

Opt-in Confirmation for Recurring Messages

It's important to note that the opt-in parameters for recurring messages are different than that of one-time messages. If you find yourself sending recurring messaging campaigns, you, as the sender, should provide consumers with a confirmation message to clearly inform the consumer they are enrolled in a recurring message campaign. You will also need to provide a clear and conspicuous description of how to opt-out.

After the message sender has confirmed that a consumer has opted-in, the message sender should send the consumer an opt-in confirmation message before any additional messaging is sent. The confirmation message should include:

  1. The program name or product description
  2. Customer care contact information (e.g., a toll-free number, 10-digit phone number, or help command instructions)
  3. How to opt-out
  4. A disclosure that the messages are recurring and the frequency of the messaging; and
  5. Clear and conspicuous language about any associated fees or charges and how those charges will be billed.

 

Identifying Yourself as the Sender

Each time you send a message, you must clearly identify yourself (the party that obtained the opt-in from the recipient) as the sender, except in follow-up messages of an ongoing conversation.

Clear Calls-to-Action

A “call-to-action” is an invitation to a consumer to opt-in to a messaging campaign. It ensures the consumer consents to receive the message, and understands the intent.

A call-to-action can be short and sweet, and should inform the consumer of the following

  1. The program or product description.
  2. The phone number(s) or short code(s) from which messaging will originate.
  3. The specific identity of the organization, or individual, represented in the initial message.
  4. Clear and conspicuous language about the opt-in and any associated fees or charges.
  5. Any other applicable terms and conditions (e.g., how to opt-out, customer care contact information and any applicable privacy policy).

Calls-to-action and subsequent messaging should not contain any deceptive language, and opt-in details should not be obscured in terms and conditions (especially terms related to other services).

Consumer Opt-Out

Opt-out mechanisms allow the customer to terminate messaging communications.

Message senders should acknowledge and respect the consumers’ opt-out requests consistent with the following guidelines:

  • Ensuring consumers have the ability to opt-out of receiving messages at any time
  • Supporting multiple mechanisms of opt-out, including phone call, email or text; and
  • Acknowledging and honoring all consumer opt-out requests by sending one final opt-out confirmation message per campaign to notify the consumer that they have opted out successfully. No further messages should be sent following the confirmation message.
  • Providing clear details as to how and what words implement an opt-out.

High Opt-Out Rate

Message senders who receive high volumes of opt-outs could be flagged and indicative of poor sending practices. In the case that the daily opt-out rate is 5% or higher, other carriers may monitor the campaign and may reach out for campaign and opt-in details. Either Dialpad or a carrier partner may suspend services of high opt-out rate flagged campaigns at its discretion.

Have a read through this Help Center article for more information about high-volume use cases.

Messaging Content Rules

Dialpad’s Acceptable Use Policy (AUP) restricts the following types of content in sent messages:

  1. Is unlawful, harmful, abusive, malicious, misleading, harassing, violent, obscene/illicit or
  2. defamatory
  3. Is deceptive (e.g., phishing messages intended to access private or confidential information), including deceptive links
  4. Invades privacy
  5. Causes safety concerns
  6. Incites harm, discrimination, hate, or violence
  7. Intended to intimidate
  8. Includes malware
  9. Threatens consumers
  10. Does not meet age-gating requirements

Dialpad also enforces the following restricted messaging use-cases:

  • Third-party lead generation
  • Social Marketing
  • Collections
  • High-risk financial services
  • Car/Health Insurance
  • Gambling
  • Gift Cards
  • Sweepstakes
  • Free prizes
  • Investment Opportunities
  • Recruiting
  • Commission programs
  • Credit Repair
  • Tax Relief
  • Illegal substances
  • Get rich quick schemes
  • Phishing
  • Fraud or scams
  • Deceptive marketing
  • SHAFT (Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, Tobacco)

 

Examples of prohibited messaging campaigns

"Savings Alert from [COMPANY]: We found a new program that can protect you from costly auto repairs. It's quick and easy to see if you qualify. [LINK]"

"Lending Alert from [COMPANY]: Your first offer! Great loan options may be available to you. It's quick and easy to learn more. Click for details. [LINK]"

"Need help settling your payday debt? [LINK] or call [NUMBER] to speak with an agent. Text STOP to optout."

"Thanks for being loyal. You can check for approval today. Login to see how much. We won't send until you okay it. [LINK]. Reply STOP to optout."

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