While the telecommunication and wireless communication industry had been ascending towards various global matters, a proper set of regulations may be mandatory to make sure that things fall in place at the end. Along with TCPA and CTIA, you will also need to know well about the text laws in order to be compliant with all these in future.
What is TCPA?
The TCPA of Telephone Consumer Protection Act, 1991, was known to be signed considering the rise in harassing, unregulated telemarketing faxes and calls. TCPA regulates or restricts the use of automated phone equipment and telephone solicitations or telemarketing. Under this act, the use of automatic dialing, recorded voice messages, SMS and fax is limited without consumers’ consent. Companies are expected to adhere to the regulations that may prevail with respect to National do not call registry and other solicitation regulations.
Consumer consent is the major issue considered in the TCPA. The subscribers can sue the companies for violating or not following the TCPA guidelines.
What is CTIA?
The CTIA or the Cellular Telecommunications and Industry Association are the representative of the wireless communications industry US and also the other companies in the mobile ecosystem that may be operating in the United States. The major objective of CTIA is to promote the best practices in the industry including those of suppliers and carriers.
Unlike TCPA, CTIA is not federal law. Therefore, the effects of not following the CTIA guidelines may be unpredictable since the authorities would decide their own course of action and even suspend your account being unhappy or unsatisfied.
While all of the telecommunication laws may have the same general principles, they are likely to vary in several implications and levels of importance they may carry.
United States: The Telephone Consumer Protection Act
There are three major companies in the US that control telecommunication practices. These include the CTIA (Cellular Telecommunication Industry Association), the FCC (Federal Communications Commission), and the MMA (Mobile Marketing Association).
While CTIA and MMA are organizations that focus on incorporating the best text marketing practices, FCC is a full-fledged government agency that brings in several laws and enforcement in order to regulate SMS marketing practices.
As per the TCPA, which is one of the major regulations of the FCC, companies should obtain proper written permission from any individual before sending any text messages to them. Even if there is a pre-existing customer relationship between the company and the individual, the written permission would still be needed. The “clear and conspicuous disclosure” of the messages would be necessary in order to make out that the company practices are TCPA compliant. Also, the messages should include proper opt-out details so that they can back out whenever they wish.
United States: CAN-SPAM Act
The CAN-SPAM Act is designed to complement the provisions of the TCPA. It has provided specific definitions for commercial messages that are meant to be promoting a product or service and restricts businesses from sending any commercial emails to mobile phones.
Note: This is not applicable to messages that convey an exciting transaction or relationship, for example, any notifications of an order confirmation or delivery.
While commercial emails are sent to mobile phones, the CAN-SPAM guidelines require it to be clearly identifiable as an advertisement. This will make it easier for the recipients to discontinue receiving such emails further by unsubscribing these services.
Australia: Spam Act
Australia’s Spam act is one of the most recently updated. It declares “unsolicited commercial electronic messages” as illegal. This also includes texting and email marketing. Explicit consent of the recipient is therefore important before executing any of these. Unlike the TCPA in the US, the Spam Act considers it enough to be having a pre-existing customer relationship with the recipients.
However, there should be proper instructions of opt-out. Also, buying a list of contacts from other companies and using it for your company’s marketing purposes, provided the fact that those individuals have accepted these messages from the third party.
United Kingdom: Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations
The text marketing laws in the United Kingdom is known to be governed by the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations that has been released by the Information Commissioner’s Office. These regulations make it mandatory for businesses that collect personal details of clients to inform them how this data would be used.
Also, like the TCPA regulations, SMS marketing without the consent of the recipient would be illegal. Similar to Australia’s Spam Act, these regulations consider it sufficient if there were any previous customer relations with the recipient.
EU: General Data Protection Regulation
The European Union’s GDPR is the new kid on the block. These regulations apply to all the companies in the world that may be seeking to do business with the EU or use any personal data of its citizens. The purpose of this law is to improve data security especially with regards to any sharing or transfer of such data. The revised regulations under GDPR not only regulate commercial messages but also other messages by the organization.
What are the best practices for TCPA and CTIA compliance?
If you think that it may not be important to consider TCPA compliance text messaging, you may end up into great troubles since TCPA is known to operate under federal law and your company can be sued for illegal practices. Here are a few practices to be considered for TCPA and CTIA compliance:
CTIA Best Practices to protect consumers against unwanted traffic
- The service providers should make sure that the consumers are able to block traffic from considerable mobile numbers.
- Consumers should be able to report any unwanted messages to the service provider.
- A properly defined TCPA Compliant opt-in process should be presented by the communication platform provider.
CTIA Best Practices to include unwanted traffic in the mobile messaging ecosystem
- Open communication: Whenever unwanted messaging threats are identified, the service providers should consult one another while they endeavour to maintain network interoperability.
- Suspend unwanted messaging traffic: Once all the practical measures have been exhausted, the providers should consider suspending traffic from applicable providers. Such suspensions should, however, last only until the issues have been resolved.
- Transparency in traffic: If possible the service providers should consider developing identifiers for companies that generate these messages.
Network operation centre (NOC): The communication platform vendors should consider maintaining network operation centres.
Obtaining the customer’s consent for text marketing
Before you start off with text marketing, it is important to receive the customer’s consent in writing. In this, mention very clearly that the customer would be contacted in future via text messages. Also, consider keeping the consent form for at least four years. You may either prefer a physically signed, digitally signed agreement or an SMS opt-in. Further, clarify to the customer that:
- By signing the agreement, they are authorizing the company to send marketing messages to that phone number.
- Signing the agreement does not mean that they are obligated to buy any goods or services.
Best Practices for SMS Marketing
Some of the best text marketing practices include the following:
1. Get Permission
As per the TCPA and CTIA regulations you cannot start off sending commercial messages to customers without having their permission. In order to keep away any legal bindings, it is suggestible to obtain written permission well in advance by the people you are targeting for your text marketing campaign.
2. Clarify your Program
Tell people clearly about what they would be dealing with when they subscribe to your text marketing campaigns. You should be able to mention the clear intent of this program. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to provide a long description, keep it precise.
3. Texting Frequency
Your customers or subscribers may not want to receive excessive texts. Therefore, you should avoid disturbing them too frequently. Sending messages only 2 to 6 times a month may be enough.
4. Include Disclaimers
This is one of the important considerations as per the CTIA. Always include warnings or disclaimers about the messages you are sending. These would be phrases like “terms and conditions applied”. This will help in keeping up transparency in your messages.
5. Instructions for Exit
Always make sure to provide clear instructions for the recipients to opt out of the subscription whenever they want. They should not be stuck in your messages and find their way out very easily.
6. Consider Normal Hours for Texting
Be courteous to your subscribers and choose normal hours for texting them. They will never appreciate waking up to commercial messages from you in the middle of the night. Normal texting hours will also induce the chances of getting responses.
What are the consequences of text spamming?
The regulations against spamming are strict enough to make you lose all that you’ve earned. For violating laws regarding text marketing, you may have to pay a lump sum for every message that you may have sent without permission. In addition to this, there may be furthermore actions taken against the functioning of the firm as per the decisions of the court of law.
These could be even worse if the court realizes that these actions had been performed knowingly. Your company can be suspended from the mobile marketing network. Therefore, it is quite understandable that you need to look forward for TCPA compliance text messaging in order to keep your place in the industry.