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The Importance of Consent in SMS Marketing

Updated: 6 days ago


A girl giving permission for marketing texts


SMS marketing has become a popular form of communication, and with this transition has come the awareness of privacy, such as GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) and the CAN-SPAM (Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Marketing) Act.


Consumers are now more aware of their rights and want their information protected, and a reduction in unwanted marketing through electronic communication.


If companies fail to comply with SMS regulations, it could lead to substantial fines and legal action from consumers. Thus, it is important for companies to obtain consent from consumers for SMS marketing.


In this blog, we shall look at what can be considered consent from consumers, consent withdrawal, and a few ways of getting consent from the consumer.



What can be considered consent from consumers?


In most countries, the customer should have explicitly agreed to receive an SMS message from the company. Signing up for an email list or providing a company with their phone number doesn’t give the company the right to send them SMS messages.


Consumers have to fill out a form that states their intention to receive SMS marketing messages. Getting messages for informational purposes also requires explicit permission from the consumer.


Opt-In and Double Opt-In


The forms that customers sign up with are considered as an opt-in to receive SMS marketing messages. Businesses are not encouraged to check the opt-in box in forms. The customers have to check the box.


To make sure that the customer did not check the box by mistake, businesses tend to go for double opt-in services. The double opt-in process is a way of confirming that your contacts want to join a text messaging list.  The double opt-in provides the business with confidence with the customer’s consent and ensures that there’ll be no spam complaints against the business.



Consent Withdrawal


Once SMS consent is obtained from consumers, the company can start sending them campaigns. However, the company must remember that the consumer can withdraw their consent at any time.


Companies must always include the option to unsubscribe from SMS campaigns. If a consumer decides to withdraw their consent from receiving any future communication from the company, all they must do is choose the option to unsubscribe.



Getting consent from Customers


Various areas have different compliances when it comes to getting SMS consent from customers. Let us have a look at a few places:


United States


Running an SMS marketing campaign in America will require compliance with rules set by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the CAN-SPAM Act. The listed regulations state how a company can contact people and obtain consent. In addition to the above regulations, every state might have additional rules and requirements:


TCPA - This was put in place to restrict cold calls and recorded voice messages to a consumer, but it brought in a few rules that applied to SMS marketing.


  • Any marketing message sent by the company must include legitimate and clear business information along with the number used to send the message.

  • Companies are not allowed to send any marketing messages to customers before 08:00 hrs and after 21:00 hrs local time without their consent. Automatically adjusting your SMS marketing schedules to local time zones may aid in compliance. Furthermore, companies must respect the National Do Not Call Registry and maintain their own company Do Not Call list.


CAN-SPAM - This Act covers all forms of CEM (Commercial Electronic Message). It shares rules with TCPA on privacy and identification and adds to them by stating that companies must also include their postal address for their business.


The Act states new rules regarding the disclosure of marketing opt-ins, message content, and customer rights to stop receiving marketing messages. It also mentions how the company can be held legally responsible for non-compliance with the regulations.


  • Companies cannot send marketing messages without the customer’s express consent. Separate consent must be obtained for emailing and calling/texting. Consent is not valid until the company clearly explains the kind of messages the consumers will receive.

  • All marketing messages must be easily and clearly identified as marketing SMS. The subject line of each message must indicate the message’s contents.

  • All marketing messages must contain clear instructions on how the customer can stop receiving further communication. The easiest way to do this in SMS marketing is to let the customer reply “STOP” to the marketing text. The company must ensure that the opt-out request must be honoured within 10 working days.



United Kingdom


In the UK, the PECR (Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations) lays the rules for SMS marketing. The rules apply to unsolicited messages. In the UK, anything a company sends that is not a response to a customer query is considered unsolicited. This implies that marketing messages are considered unsolicited even if the company has the consent of the customer.


  • All marketing messages sent out by the company must contain the name of the business, a postal address, and a contact number.



  • It must be made obvious to people that they’re agreeing to receive marketing messages. The information must be clearly displayed. The information included in the company privacy policy or terms and conditions does not count.


To opt into a company’s marketing campaign, customers must tick a box showing a clear sign of consent. The consent cannot be preselected or a default opt-in.


The opt-in page or widget must name the business that will contact the customer, and sentences that say consent for marketing from “third parties” or other vague terms are not valid.


  • Customers must have an easy procedure to opt out of the marketing messages. They must not be to complete complex forms to opt-out. Companies are expected to stop marketing messages with any indication from the customer to stop, and this must be done immediately with a confirmation sent to the customer. 


In case there is a dispute with a customer, the company must maintain records of complying with PECR. This must include information like when the customer opted in, what they opted into, and the record of their opt-out request.


Canada


The CASL (Canada Anti-Spam Legislation) regulates SMS and email marketing and the use of social media. In addition to the SMS consent from customers, CASL allows companies to message customers under implied consent as well.


Implied consent - Customers with whom the business might have a previous connection are considered as customers who have implied consent. That is, the company can send these customers SMS marketing messages. This implied consent lasts 2 years after the customer’s most recent transaction, after which express consent from the customer will be required.


  • SMS marketing messages sent by the company to the customer must contain the business name, a contact method, and the address from where the message originates. The information mentioned can be sent via SMS through a web link.

  • The express consent from a customer for SMS marketing must clearly state what they’re signing up for. Express consent cannot be a part of the company's privacy policy. Pre-checked boxes or default consent is frowned upon and punishable. Customers need to confirm their subscription after an initial request, and only then can the company start sending them SMS marketing messages.

  • Opting out of the SMS marketing campaign must be as simple as replying to the message with “STOP”. The company must ensure that they consider any request to stop receiving SMS marketing messages.


  • In case of disputes with customers claiming that consent was not given, companies have to have records of the consent. This must contain records of the customer agreeing to receive SMS marketing messages.


  • The double opt-in system is a good way for companies to keep track of unintentional opt-ins and intentional opt-ins. Similarly, companies can use this system for opt-outs as well.



Conclusion


Consent in today’s world is very important. Consumers are more informed than before, and companies have to navigate a plethora of regulations to stay on the right path. SMS marketing is a great way to reach the customer, but companies must ensure that they are doing it the right way.


We can see above the various regulations around opting in, record keeping, and opting out among others. Companies must comply with the above policies set by countries to find the right customers and grow.


Doing things right also helps the company maintain its brand image and provides experience for the company on how to approach and find people to get their consent for SMS marketing messages.

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