SMS Regulatory Compliance: What You Need to Know About Text Messaging

Mitzi Mori Senior Product Manager

With high open and read rates, SMS is too valuable a marketing tool to ignore. However, according to a webinar poll conducted by Airship, 30% of marketers are hesitant to adopt SMS because of compliance concerns.

As daunting as SMS compliance requirements may seem, when done correctly, SMS can be a powerful messaging tool to reach and engage with your customers.

Here are some features and processes we have included as part of our SMS offering that you can use to help you start your SMS marketing strategy.

Some Background on SMS Regulation

Meeting regulatory requirements and maintaining best practices to support customer relationships are critical for brands that use SMS in their marketing mix. Regulations such as the U.S. Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 (TCPA), the Canadian Anti-Spam Law (CASL), and the EU Directive on Privacy and Electronic Communications (the ePrivacy Directive), include strict requirements for sending SMS marketing messages. 

Additionally, industry guidelines, such as the Mobile Marketing Association’s Consumer Best Practices for Messaging and the wireless industry association CTIA’s Short Code Monitoring Program should be carefully considered when implementing SMS campaigns and activities.

Under the TCPA, and other laws, a business must provide clear and conspicuous information about its practices and get the recipient’s express written consent to receive text messages before sending an automated message. Businesses should check for the legal age of consent based on where the recipient is located. If a business is using a purchased phone list, consent and opt-out requirements still apply.

Airship Supports Two Opt-in Methods for SMS:

Double Opt-In for Mobile Phone Opt-In– In response to a call to action from the brand, a consumer texts “JOIN” from their mobile device. This triggers Airship SMS to send a double opt-in request (with adjustments made if requested by the brand)

Double Opt-In for Non-Mobile Phone Opt-In – To initiate a double opt-in when a consumer opts in to receive SMS messages via a website, app, paper form or any means other than sending a text from the mobile phone, the brand provides that opted-in phone number to the Airship platform. This triggers Airship SMS to send a double opt-in request. The consumer doesn’t get added to the opted-in list until they respond with a “Y.” Once added to the list, Airship SMS sends an automatic confirmation alert.

Airship also gives brands options to send SMS to their managed opt-ins:

Uploaded to Airship SMS via API –After the consumer opts in to receiving SMS messages, the phone number and opt-in date/time are then passed to  Airship, and  Airship SMS tracks the opt-in date/time in our database along with the phone number.

Uploaded to Airship via CSV File – After the consumer opts in to receiving SMS messages, the phone number and opt-in date/time are then passed to  Airship by the brand via the  Airship Message Composer, and  Airship SMS tracks the opt-in date/ time in our database along with the phone number.

Transactional Messages – Transactional messages are messages that are closely related to the service being provided, such as delivery updates for a package or appointment reminders. Once the consumer provides the brand with legally appropriate consent to receive transactional messages, the brand triggers sending the transactional message by providing the phone number and opt-in date to  Airship SMS via our API.

The Option to Opt-out Is Just as Important as the Option of Opting In

 Airship supports these opt-out methods for SMS:

Mobile device originated opt-out request: When a consumer texts the brand with a keyword like STOP (or any of the other opt-out keywords specified by law or best practices), Airship SMS automatically responds with a confirmation and adds an opt-out date/time to our database (example message below, marketers can tailor the content of this opt-out confirmation message to fit their workflow and brand requirements):

{Brand Name}: You have opted-out and will no longer receive messages. Reply HELP for help

Airship does not send messages to any numbers that have opt-out dates associated with them. If the consumer decides to opt in again, the Double Opt-In or Brand Managed Opt-In methods described above will register a new opt-in date.

Opt-out via website or app: If a consumer changes their preferences in a Preference Center—or in some other way via the brand’s website or app—the brand must pass the opt-out information to the Airship platform using the Airship API. Airship then adds the opt-out date/time to our database.

Carrier deactivation handling: Mobile network operators in the USA (like AT&T, Verizon, etc.) provide Airship with a list of deactivated phone numbers on a daily basis (i.e., consumers who have disconnected service with that operator). Airship SMS automatically uninstalls these numbers (removes them from our database entirely) so that the brands don’t inadvertently message the wrong person if that number gets reassigned. 

Some Things to Keep in Mind:

Make sure to maintain all consent records that provide relevant details.  Airship makes it easy to do with reports that give brands the ability to view opt-in and opt-out status for consumers who have provided consent to receive SMS messages from the brand. It’s also important to drill down to see details — and/ or stream opt-in and opt-out events into other business systems.

Make sure to do your research. In addition to country-specific laws and regulations governing SMS messaging, industry groups have published best practice guidelines for companies engaged in text marketing. These include the Mobile Marketing Association’s Consumer Best Practices for Messaging and the wireless industry association CTIA’s Short Code Monitoring Program.

Please note that the above content is provided for information purposes only and is not intended to and should not be relied on as legal or compliance advice. Please consult with your organization’s legal counsel or regulatory compliance team for compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.


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