The reality is that there are regulations governing certain aspects of mass messaging, and there are a lot of gray areas as well. There’s also the issue of enforcement and holding spammers accountable for breaking the rules. In this post, we’ll take a look at what you can, can’t, and shouldn’t do when mass texting.
Telephone Consumer Protection Act Of 1991 (or commonly referred to as the TCPA)
While mass texting is by no means illegal, it is heavily restricted. The U.S. government has a long history of regulation protecting consumer privacy in relation to telemarketing and robocalls and this also extends to texting. The most relevant piece of legislation narrowing the scope of acceptable telemarketing practices came with the TCPA of 1991 which amended the original Communications Act of 1934.
Unless recipients had given prior consent, as of 1991, companies wishing to employ mass texting or calling had to heed the following restrictions:
- Calling before 8:00 a.m. and after 9:00 p.m. (recipient’s local time) is prohibited.
- Anyone registered in the National Do Not Call Registry cannot be a recipient of an organization’s mass calls or texts.
- Unsolicited faxes for the purposes of marketing are prohibited in any case.
- Robocalls to emergency services, hospitals, doctor’s offices, healthcare facilities are prohibited.
- Any calls made to lines for which the recipient is charged for the call are prohibited.
- No artificial voices or recorded calls can be made to residences without the recipient giving prior consent (opting-in). (This portion gets more specific with the amendment that came in 2013, discussed below)
- Business conducting mass calls or texting must identify themselves, or identify who they are calling for.
- Companies must provide a callback number or reply option.
- A company or organization advertising via mass calls or texts must maintain a Do Not Call (DNC) list of recipients who do not wish to be called or texted. Opt-out requests must be honored for at least five years.
- No solicitations can be made that take up two or more lines of a multiple line business at a time.
- Violations of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act give the recipient of any unwanted call or text the right to sue for up to $1,500 per unsolicited text or call.
The problem with the 1991 legislation was that the meaning of prior consent could be interpreted fairly loosely. Consent was considered to be given if a customer or potential customer voluntarily gave the company their phone number. Or, if consent was implied, rather than explicit, that was also considered a green light for telemarketing calls and texts.
Best Practices for TCPA Compliance
- Identify yourself or your organization in your message
- Pay close attention to the time you are sending messages
- Do not send messages to contacts who have opted out, and don’t ignore contacts who are requesting to opt-out
- DO NOT send messages to phone numbers that were not given directly to your organization (don’t buy a list, don’t blanket an area code)
Shelby Systems has decades of experience working with ministries of all sizes, for more creative ideas and suggestions contact your Shelby Sales Consultant today!