The legal aspects of SMS

Feb 24, 2017 From: SMS-marketing-tips



How often do people read SMS? Very often. SMS marketing is retaining its key position. Companies organize mass dispatch of SMS for advertising or to inform their clients. In SMS marketing, you don't need to worry about expensive designs or other related expenses. However, there are some rules to follow to achieve the best results.

One of the most important things which you have to pay attention to before you start your SMS campaign is the legal aspect. All countries have their own bodies which regulate the sending of SMS, for example, in America, there is the CTIA, in Britain there is the PECR. The legal environment of each country has its own specific nuances. This notwithstanding, they also have much in common. You must be aware of national laws and jurisdictions before you start sending SMS.

Opt-in and Opt-out

Before you begin sending SMS to customers, you must ensure that you have consent from each client; that they have personally given you access to their contact details and allowed you to send out marketing messages to their phones. You need to keep a record of this consent to produce for operators upon request as proof of the legality of your actions.  

Moreover, you must send each client a text message with an opt-out mechanism. After subscribers have asked not to receive marketing messages, you must cease the send out of SMS to their phone number. The most common opt-out mechanism is to send the word STOP.  

Sending Time

In one of our previous blog articles, we wrote that if the SMS sending time is chosen carefully, this can increase its chances of attracting attention to the information in the message. In some countries, this issue is regulated by law. For example, the CTIA specifies that messages must not be sent before 8 am or after 9 pm in the subscriber's own time zone. Regulatory frameworks vary, but even if there is no such requirement in your country, you had better take this question into account. Believe us, no one wants to read your SMS if it wakes them up or distracts them from something important.

Message content

Undoubtedly, companies approach the writing of message content very carefully, as this should bring marketing information to the customers. The law also regulates this. Message content must not offend, upset or harm, etc any recipient of a message, whether intentionally or otherwise. In many countries, it is forbidden to spread unfair and misleading advertising; advertising which incites unlawful acts; advertising using abusive language, obscene or offensive images, comparisons and expressions; advertising distorting the meaning of information and misleading consumers. In no case can you send any of the following messages:

  • Pornographic or sexually explicit messages;
  • Messages with obscene language or abuse;  
  • Promotion of illegal goods or services;
  • Messages that violate any applicable laws;
  • Messages sent without the consent of recipients.


Penalty

Each country defines its fines for violations of the laws regulating the sending of SMS. But they all have something in common; they all hit the offender’s wallet. Here are a few notable lawsuits and fines which companies have had to pay:

Papa John’s Pizza  

According to the lawsuit, Papa John’s franchisees sent text messages to consumers that had previously purchased pizza, in order to get them to order again. Papa John’s was unable to provide any evidence that any customer who received the text messages gave their consent to be text messaged.  

Settlement: $250,000,000  

20th Century Fox  

According to the lawsuit, Twentieth Century Fox and FoxStore.com sent unsolicited text messages to consumers advertising the DVD release of the animated motion picture Robots.  

Settlement: $16,000,000  

Simon & Schuster  

According to the lawsuit, Simon & Schuster sent unsolicited text messages promoting a new book to 60,000 mobile phones.  

Settlement: $10,000,000  

Compu-Finder

According to the lawsuit, Canadian company Compu-Finder had multiple violations, including distribution without permission, and many complaints of recipients.

Settlement: $1,000,000

Telecom organizations’ Anti-Spam Policies

You shouldn't forget that in addition to legislation, the telecom organizations you are using to send SMS have Anti-Spam Policies. Do not ignore the. Usually, the Anti-Spam Policy clearly sets out sending rules and reasons for blocking messages.

We have only discussed a few general principles regulating the sending of SMS in different countries. To avoid violations and fines, before sending SMS you need to familiarize yourself with the laws of your country and your subscribers’ country.

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