The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (or TCPA) was passed by Congress in 1991 to protect consumers from annoying telephone calls they didn’t wish to receive and to impose a penalty on companies or marketers that continued to call consumers who did not wish to receive marketing phone calls. The TCPA was expanded to include texting when companies began to use SMS to send promotional messages to consumers. Despite clear rules about what businesses can and can’t do when it comes to contacting consumers by phone or text, many businesses still aren’t compliant.
In 2016 alone, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) which oversees the TCPA received more than 4 billion complaints from US consumers about unwanted calls and texts. Many of these complaints were from customers who were still getting calls or texts after repeated requests for them to stop. Often these complaints led to litigation and fines for companies that weren’t compliant with TCPA regulations. To avoid this happening to your business, it’s important to know what the TCPA says about SMS marketing and to know how to be compliant.
The TCPA and texting
Though there are many smaller rules that are good to know regarding the TCPA and sending texts, there are really only two big ones. The first is that businesses must obtain permission from consumers before sending them text messages. The second is that they must also make it clear to consumers how they may opt-out of receiving future texts should they change their minds. Sending texts before receiving permission or after permission has been revoked is a violation of the TCPA and can result in fines or even lawsuits.
Where most businesses get into trouble with the FCC is when they attempt to manage their own phone number database. Phone numbers of customers that have chosen to opt out may not be removed quickly enough or they may accidentally not get removed at all. The simplest way for businesses to ensure that their SMS campaign is TCPA compliant is to use a bulk SMS service that automates opt-ins and opt-outs. Often, this is done through a short code where a customer can text a predetermined keyword to a registered short code (a 5- or 6-digit number) to opt-in. This triggers an automatic text message to the consumer’s phone informing them that they have opted in and detailing how they may opt out.
With every subsequent text message, there will be directions to opt out. Typically, this is done by replying to the text message with the word “stop.” By using a SMS marketing platform, the phone number list is always kept up to date so you’re guaranteed to be compliant with the TCPA.
How the TCPA benefits you
While the TCPA might seem to you like annoying regulations and unfair meddling by the federal government, it actually benefits you as a business owner. Since you’re paying per text, TCPA regulations ensure that you’re only sending texts to people who want to receive them and those are the people most likely to convert on promotional messages anyways.