The Complete SMS
Compliance Guide

Disclaimer: Please note that this is not legal advice and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from qualified legal counsel, nor is it to assist you or help you be compliant as you assume 100% responsibility in all legal matters.

Texting offers a near-instant way to get in front of your audience. But before taking advantage of this channel, you need to understand the SMS compliance guidelines that exist to protect consumers.

Without the proper precautions in place, your company could face fines or legal repercussions.

Fortunately, there are many good legal firms that can develop an SMS compliance guide for you and walk you through the most important considerations so you can launch your text program with confidence.

SMS & Text Message Compliance Overview

SMS marketing is a highly lucrative channel. Consumers spend nearly 3.75 hours per day on their phones, and 98% of texts get read. Texting almost guarantees that recipients will see your message.

But a consumer�s text message inbox is personal real estate. To prevent companies from taking advantage of consumer privacy, various organizations have enacted SMS rules to preserve these rights.

The organizations that oversee text message compliance include:

Please take a minute to click on the above links and get familiar with them. While these organizations advocate for text message privacy, the FCC and FTC are the only ones with the power to create and enforce SMS laws. Under the FCC, two acts govern most SMS compliance requirements:

  • Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
  • CAN-SPAM Act

SMS Compliance Key Terms to Know

An SMS opt-in is the act a consumer takes to enroll in your SMS program. Typically, consumers can opt in by entering their phone number in a website form and selecting a box to receive exclusive offers or notifications.

An opt-out occurs when subscribers indicate they no longer agree to receive SMS messages from your business. Subscribers can easily opt out of text campaigns by replying “STOP” to the sender. Companies are required to remove opted-out subscribers from all further communications or face penalties.

Express Written Consent:
A heightened level of permission that businesses must obtain before they may text a consumer, as outlined by the FCC. Consumers can provide express written consent by:

  • Manually checking a box in a website form
  • Verbally agreeing to opt in (which must be recorded)
  • Texting a shortcode to a designated number

Transactional Text Message:
Text messages sent with the sole purpose of updating or informing customers of essential, pertinent information. Examples include order confirmations, identity authentication and shipping updates.

Promotional Text Messages:
Marketing messages sent to generate sales or engage an audience with non-essential information like product launches. Unlike transactional messages, promotional texts require prior express written consent.

Text Spam:
Unsolicited SMS messages sent to consumers who did not provide express written consent to receive text messages from the organization.

Privacy Policy:
A document that discloses the personal information your organization collects from consumers, how the data might be used and the steps your business takes to protect any personal information you acquire.

Terms and Conditions:
A document that outlines the details of your SMS program. It must include the types of messages consumers can expect to receive, your texting cadence, message and data rate notices, any associated costs, your privacy policy, opt-out instructions and other terms of use.

Example of SMS Opt In and Opt Out Message

SMS Compliance Checklist

Now that you understand the basic terms surrounding text message compliance, here are some critical steps to consider: 

 1. Outline Your Program Details at Opt In

When it comes to text messaging compliance, how you present and promote your SMS campaign also falls under scrutiny. 

 Wherever you provide a call-to-action to opt-in to your SMS program, you must include the following details: 

  1. Your business name 
  2. The types of messages recipients can expect
  3. Your messaging cadence
  4. Text message and data rate notices
  5. A link to your terms and conditions
  6. Privacy policy
  7. Opt-out instructions

2. Receive Prior Express Written Consent

SMS compliance laws place a special emphasis on consent. Under TCPA, you must receive express written consent to text consumers marketing messages.

Texting consumers who did not give authorization can cost you fines ranging from $500 to $1,500 per incident.

You can obtain express written consent via online forms. However, you must explicitly state that enrolling means subscribers agree to receive text messages.

3. Confirm Opt-Ins

As a double opt-in measure, TCPA also requires you to text recipients a disclosure message to confirm their participation in your SMS program.

This message should reiterate the details of your SMS program stated at opt-in.

4. Clearly Communicate Terms and Conditions

Before launching an SMS campaign, you should develop a page that outlines the full details of your SMS policy.

Provide a link to the terms and conditions in the initial disclosure text, and periodically remind your customers how to access the policy. You should also notify your subscribers via text whenever terms and conditions change.

5. Time Your Texts Appropriately

Texting your audience at the wrong time can also put you in violation of SMS marketing compliance laws. Under the TCPA, you cannot text or call subscribers before 8:00 AM or after 9:00 PM.

6. State Your Business Name in Every Message

To maintain full transparency with SMS subscribers, you must include your business name in every message.

7. Allow Your Audience to Easily Opt Out

A key piece of SMS compliance is the opt-out process. You must make it clear and easy for subscribers to opt out of your SMS program.

For example, customers should be able to text “STOP” to unsubscribe from marketing text messages. Send opt-out instructions often to maintain text message compliance.

8. Avoid Banned Language

SMS compliance requirements also cover the content of your message. The CTIA rule known as SHAFT prohibits companies from sending content on the topics of sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco. This rule also applies to any promotion of your SMS marketing program.

Companies that sell alcohol or tobacco can still message their audience about deals and specials but must include an age gate so only people above the legally permitted age can sign up to receive texts.

Breaking this rule puts your company at risk of being banned from sending text messages.

9. Don’t Message Opt-Outs

The National Do Not Call Registry also applies to SMS marketing. It’s illegal to text anyone on this list as well subscribers who have opted out of SMS communications.

SMS Compliance Takeaways

Businesses must prioritize SMS compliance to remain in good standing with customers and the law. Compliance ensures that you only text the customers who genuinely want to hear from you – and you’ll see higher response rates and better performance as a result.

You can simplify your SMS compliance tasks when you work directly and one-on one with the right legal firm. Text marketing service and SMS platforms like Textedly have pricing and great monthly or annual plans for all kinds of businesses and organizations both small and large.

Keep reading for more SMS marketing compliance tips.

Disclaimer: Please note that this is not legal advice and is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to substitute for advice from qualified legal counsel, nor is it to assist you or help you be compliant as you assume 100% responsibility in all legal matters.


Express Written Consent