Now that you are ready to start your SMS program, it is important to understand compliance and permissions for ongoing SMS messaging. Review the following documents for SMS campaigns in the United States to help you and your legal teams understand what is required in order to make your SMS campaigns compliant. Each country has its own compliance requirements and if you need additional details, contact Support.
This information summarizes and contains Acoustic's interpretation of SMS compliance. Acoustic Help Center articles are not legal advice and you may not rely on them as such. All customers are contractually responsible for their own compliance and must work with their legal counsel accordingly.
Best practices for SMS compliance
If you remember the following points, it is unlikely that you will have any problems with carriers or compliance issues and very likely that you will have successful text messaging campaigns and happy customers:
- Build a compliant database.
- Document and save program opt-ins and messaging permissions.
- Clearly communicate what people are signing up for (content, frequency, etc.) up-front to ensure customer satisfaction.
- Choose the right SMS code for your campaigns: a dedicated short code, toll free number or 10-digit long code (10DLC). For more guidance, go to Types of SMS codes available in the US.
Note: According to 2021 regulations in the US, shared short codes are being discontinued.
- Use multimedia for better customer engagement and action.
- Work with your legal team to ensure your program offerings are legally compliant.
- Only send messages to legally obtained opted-in numbers.
- Follow through on your promise and send what you said you would send to your customers.
- Follow laws for marketing based around alcohol, tobacco, and marketing directed towards children under 13.
Mobile Marketing Association
The Mobile Marketing Association is the leading global non-profit trade association that is established to foster growth in all areas of mobile marketing. The MMA's stated goals are to clear obstacles to market development, establish mobile media guidelines and best practices for sustainable growth, as well as evangelize the use of mobile media.
Download a PDF of the MMA SMS Best Practices. This is the trade group that represents a wide variety of interests on behalf of telecom carriers, manufacturers, consultants, vendors, and other members of the wireless industry.
CTIA: Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association
This non-profit trade organization represents of the U.S. wireless communications industry and the companies throughout the mobile ecosystem. One of their main functions is managing the Short Code Registry, handling both operational and technical aspects of short code functions, as well as maintaining a single database of available, reserved, and registered short codes.
Since the CTIA handles the registry and oversee short codes, they also set the rules for short code usage in “Short Code Monitoring Handbook”. This document lays a framework for honoring consumer choices. In addition to the rules established in the handbook, carriers have their own rules that apply for SMS messages that go exclusively through their own network.
Short code programs are subject to random compliance audits conducted by carriers and the CTIA.
TCPA: Telephone Consumer Protection Act
The TCPA is a federal statute introduced to protect customers' privacy. The TCPA was interpreted in recent years to prohibit sending unsolicited commercial text messages to cell phones, with limited exceptions (messages sent for emergency purposes). Among other things, the TCPA allows individuals to file lawsuits and collect damages for receiving unsolicited telemarketing calls, faxes, pre-recorded calls, or auto-dialed calls.
According to the TCPA regulations, the FCC is empowered to issue rules to implement the TCPA.
For more details about the differences between TCPA and CTIA, watch What is the difference between the TCPA and CTIA guidelines.
Free to End User (FTEU) compliance guidelines
The following list contains Free to End User (FTEU) compliance guidelines. In short, FTEU is not a way to avoid the compliance framework of standard messaging.
- FTEU does not give the right to send unsolicited messages – still held to TCPA, CTIA and carrier standards. Also, it does not give marketers the right to send content otherwise not supported by carriers (i.e., past due notices/debt collection on VZW).
- The only USA carriers that support FTEU are VZW, Sprint, TMobile, AT&T, and US Cellular.
- A call-to-action must include program sponsor, description of the program, customer support information, opt-out information, message frequency, terms, and privacy.
- Terms would be the same as standard rate shortcode terms and conditions (unless carriers are supported that don't have FTEU, that would need to be explained by carrier - (i.e. "Msg and Data Rates apply on the following carriers: ____").
- Users must opt in.
- Confirmation MT must include "free msg", a service description (brand/type of message), help and stop information, message frequency.
- Content MTs must include "free msg" (could be 'Free XYZ corp msg' or something similar).
- STOP must opt out the user and a response should include that the user will not receive more messages.
- HELP must include the brand sponsor, description of program content (for example, bank balance alerts, password verification, and so on), contact information, and STOP information.
Other compliance guidelines
- CTIA: View information about the US wireless communication industry. Make sure to read CTIA's Messaging Principles and Best Practices guide.
- Short Code Registry: View the CTIA's Short Code Registry's Resources page for a list of guidelines, messaging principles and best practices, and other resources.
- DMA: View Alert for Telephone & Email Marketers Marketing Mistakes.
- FCC: View the consumer guide on Spam: Unwanted Text messages and Email.