In this article, we'll talk about SMS compliance and TCPA, as well as best practices and guidelines for marketing through text messages.
The information contained here should not be relied upon as legal advice. We recommend consulting legal counsel to ensure your marketing activities align with the law.
SMS Compliance Guidelines
Sending noncompliant SMS is a surefire way to get your sender's number blocked, both by your customers and by phone carriers. This way, you lose the opportunity to reach customers and the possible revenue from your campaigns and automations.
While we advise that you speak with your legal counsel first, we have included some of the most general regulations below for your reference:
Acquire explicit consent from the customer to receive your marketing texts. It is not enough for the customers to be subscribed to your email marketing and provide their phone number; they need to subscribe to the SMS channel too.
Find more information in the SMS opt-in collection guide.
Clearly explain what type of messages your customers opt-in to. If they opt-in to receive an Order Confirmation message, that's the only message you can send. You should clearly state that your customers opt-in for weekly updates or any other marketing materials.
Provide an automated way for them to opt-out of your messages by replying with a STOP keyword.
Read this guide to learn how your customers can unsubscribe from SMS.
Send engaging content. Add some incentives, offer a discount, or notify about the upcoming sale.
Consider that you cannot include SHAFT-related content in your messages. Do not include materials with illegal actions or drugs, abuse, or adult content such as nudity, profanity, or hate speech.
Read more about how to make sure your text messages get delivered.
Consider your customers' time zone. Send your messages with the appropriate timing, at least within the 9 am and 9 pm window.
Make sure you don't overwhelm your customers with the SMS messages sending. Do not send your Campaigns too often, and adjust your automation workflow settings.
If you send text messages in the EU, jump to our guide dedicated to GDPR.
You need terms and conditions for SMS marketing that are separate from your general terms and conditions — for example, clearly stating that sharing information like phone numbers with third parties or affiliates is prohibited.
Put these documents in a prominent place on your website, any marketing materials, or other digital and printed documents. You want your customers, CTIA auditors, and phone carriers to see that your company follows the rules.
Find more information about Privacy settings in your Shopify account in the SMS opt-in collection guide.
TCPA is The Telephone Consumer Protection Act passed by Congress in 1991. It safeguards consumer privacy by restricting telemarketing communications such as voice calls, SMS texts, and fax.
The violation of this policy may result in a penalty of $500 for each text message you send. And it may get even worse. If the court finds that you broke this policy intentionally, it may triple the penalty up to $1,500 per text message. It sounds like a lot of damage can be brought by simple negligence of the TCPA policies.
Read more about TCPA and how to follow the regulations in the dedicated guide.
The CTIA, or Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, represents the U.S. wireless communication organizations, such as AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon, and many more. CTIA's principal goal is to encourage market best practices, including those of suppliers and carriers.
Unlike TCPA, CTIA is not federal law. Therefore, you can't be sued for the violation, but the effect may be completely unpredictable; it may even result in your SMS program being shut down by one or more carriers.
Important! Not all customers will reply to your message with the STOP keyword when they want to opt-out of your messages. No matter what channel they use to contact you, their request should be processed as soon as possible.
You should take compliance with SMS marketing regulations seriously to protect yourself from legal action and financial penalties. Moreover, being compliant aids in maintaining relationships with your customers. Every customer expects personalized communications tailored to their interests, equal treatment, and the security of their personal data.
Incorporating compliance into your sending practices can allow you to gain the rewards of stronger connections without exposing yourself to legal liability. Always remember, for SMS marketing to work, it must first be compliant.