How Is SMS Marketing Regulated?

how is text message marketing regulated?

While SMS marketing can appear relatively straightforward, there are some regulatory things to keep in mind. A common question we see is “how is SMS marketing regulated?”. There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation about text message marketing in regard to laws, compliance, and best practices. A lot of this confusion comes from not knowing the three main players: the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, The Federal Communications Commission, and The Mobile Marketing Association. 

For a deeper understanding of each organization and how they impact text message marketing, check out their descriptions below: 

Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA)
The CTIA is an organization that was created by the wireless carriers to enforce proper SMS marketing practices to make sure they’re in the best interests of the consumer. The CTIA guidelines are very specific about text message marketing. They tell you exactly what must be included in an advertisement for an SMS program (i.e. message and data rates, help and stop commands, message frequency, links to terms and conditions, privacy policies, etc.) as well as what must not be included. Since the CTIA guidelines aren’t officially SMS marketing law, you can’t be sued for violating them, but you do run the risk of having your SMS program shut down.

Federal Communications Commission (FCC)
While the CTIA guidelines aren’t SMS marketing law, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act  (TCPA -developed by the FCC) is federal law. No business has ever been sued for not following CTIA guidelines, but countless brands have been sued under the TCPA, including large brands such as Jiffy Lube and Papa John’s. Unlike the CTIA, which is very specific, nothing in the TCPA specifically targets text message marketing. In fact, the TCPA doesn’t actually mention text messaging at all. Text messaging was only recently mentioned by the FCC in a clarification issued regarding whether or not the TCPA applies to text message marketing (it does). There’s no mention in the TCPA of message and data rates or what must be included in a text message when a consumer texts the word “HELP” to a short code. The TCPA SMS marketing laws are all about brands receiving permission from consumers to text message, the specifics of how this permission can be obtained, and what is allowed after permission has been granted.

Mobile Marketing Association (MMA)
Lastly, there’s the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), which releases its own SMS marketing best practices document that is very similar to the Mobile Commerce Compliance Handbook that the CTIA puts out. The MMA best practices for SMS marketing aren’t SMS marketing law, like the TCPA is, and they aren’t enforced by anyone, so these best practices add more confusion to the industry than clarification

Knowing the rules and big players associated with text message marketing helps text marketers make informed decisions. For an updated CTIA Short Code Handbook, click here.