3 TCPA compliance facts you need to know

Enacted in 1991, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, or TCPA, originally protected consumers from telemarketing calls and the like. But just because texting didn’t exist then doesn’t mean this statute isn’t applicable to you. Business texting is not exempt from these rules and you need to prioritize TCPA compliance.

Some people may wrongly believe that opt ins and TCPA only apply to things like telemarketing phone calls or short code messages. This is incorrect. When using a long code number to send marketing messages and the like you must be TCPA compliant.

Here are three things you should to better ensure your business is compliant with TCPA.

Opt ins

TCPA compliance starts with getting prior express written consent before calling, sending a text message, or delivering a voice message to a customer’s mobile phone. This prior consent is called the opt-in process.

Basically, don’t text people unless they give you permission to do so. Simply having someone’s phone number doesn’t mean you have permission to send them marketing messages.

Prior consent requires that your customer take an affirmative step, such as checking a box or replying with a typed response. When you invite contacts to opt in, make sure the language is clear and conspicuous. Don’t make it difficult for them to understand what they are agreeing to.

The opt-in process should be provided to the customer by some means other than a text message. This could be a literal piece of paper that they fill out or it could be a digital opt-in, such as an email message or a web form. Proof of opt-in by your customer should be stored for at least five years.

So, for example, if you have a form fill on your website and you would like to be able to text anyone who fills it out, you would need something like a checkbox (that cannot be checked for them) that each person would need to click. Along with that checkbox you need to tell them – in clear language – what they are agreeing to. This includes the information like “message and data rates may apply.”

You might also want to use a double opt-in approach. If you do, the first message to the customer would include similar language to the initial opt-in. This approach is helpful if you do not have clear evidence of the initial opt-in, such as with keyword campaigns.

This is an example of a form fill on the Skipio website (as of January 9, 2020) that includes the opt-in language.

Opt outs

There needs to be a way for people to automatically stop receiving messages from you. And if someone asks to stop receiving messages, you must honor all opt outs immediately.

From time to time, you might include opt out instructions, such as “Reply STOP to unsubscribe at any time” or something similar. While this information should have been present when they originally opted in, obviously they will not necessarily remember exactly what to do to stop receiving messages.

This is why you should make the opt out instructions clear, reasonable, and easily accessible. Not only does this keep you compliant with TCPA, it ensures you keep your customers happy.

Consequences

If you do violate the TCPA and someone you contacted decides to take legal action, they can seek to recover any money that was lost in relation to the violation(s) or $500 in damages per violation, whichever is greater. Depending on the severity of the violation(s), the court could also rule that up to three times that amount be awarded.

It clearly pays to stay compliant and respect your contacts’ privacy. After all, ignorance to the law is not a defense that will get you very far.

Note: The above information is not meant to be legal advice. If you need further assistance on the issue of TCPA compliance, contact a legal professional in your area.

Whether you use Skipio or any other another platform or service to send marketing and sales messages to consumers, you and your business are responsible for ensuring your contacts have opted in to receiving such messages.

This post was originally published October 30, 2018 and was most recently updated on January 9, 2019. The update included significant clarifying information in the “Opt ins” and “Opt outs” section and other small additions throughout.

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