In this guide, we will explain the rules and regulations that govern text messaging by businesses, as well as what your responsibilities are as a business using SMS to contact your customers.
The Difference Between Informational and Promotional SMS
The TCPA categorizes SMS sent out by businesses as either Promotional or Informational. You are required to follow different rules for texting as a business depending on which category a text falls into.
Informational texts are text messages that are sent from a business to a consumer for the purpose of conveying information essential to the consumer’s usage of the business. For example, an appointment reminder or a delivery notification would all be examples of informational texts.
If a text is only informational, then businesses are not required to have express written consent to send it. If an SMS is both informational and promotional, then it would fall under the category of promotional, and you would need consent to send it out.
A promotional text is any text offering a promotion, coupon or advertising a business in any way. These texts are highly regulated and require Express Written Consent from the person you are contacting.
Some examples of Promotional texts are:
“Use code FREE15 for 15% off”
“For a limited time, get a free ice cream with every order”
Express Written Consent
Express written consent is a way of saying that the consumer being contacted by your business knowingly and willingly agreed to receive promotional texts from you. It is important that they are aware they will be receiving promotional material, and not just have consented to give you their phone number.
There are numerous ways express written consent can be given, but the most common one for web-based businesses is a checkbox that says something like “I consent to receive promotional material from XYZ Business.” Texting.io makes this simple with our embedded web-forms that automatically import submissions into your chosen Texting.io list.
For in-person businesses, handwritten forms are also acceptable, as are recorded verbal confirmations. All of these forms are required to have the consumer know exactly what they are agreeing to.
One simple way to ensure you have consent before texting someone is to use an Autoresponder, and place your keywords in promotional materials. This way, you know that when someone texts the keyword to your number, they are interested in receiving SMS from you and are thus opted in.
The Texting.io platform allows you to import a CSV with a list of contacts. All of these contacts MUST have given express written consent to be contacted with promotional materials in order to be eligible to be imported into the Texting.io platform. Failure to do this may result in your account being permanently suspended from using our services.
Regardless of receiving consent, there are four categories of businesses which are not allowed to send promotional material via SMS. These are any businesses involving sex, alcohol, firearms and tobacco. This is a non-negotiable restriction, and attempting to bypass it WILL result in your account being banned and your information passed on to the CTIA if requested.
While promotions regarding alcohol are prohibited, bars and restaurants are still allowed to promote their specials, Happy Hours etc. IF they ensure that there is an age gate that bars anyone under legal drinking age from signing up for SMS alerts.
Texting.io and Compliance
We understand that compliance issues can often be a source of stress for businesses, so if anything isn’t clear to you at any time, we encourage you to contact our support team who can answer questions regarding your specific use case.