SMS Messaging is a great way to reach out to customers. With 75% of the world’s population using cell phones, there can be no better way to reach out and connect to people. Read more about the advantages of SMS messaging in a recent blog post.
But the ease and power of SMS messaging should not let you forget that there are rules to business-based SMS message marketing and there are consequences for breaking those rules.
Federal SMS Messaging Regulations
The United States Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has very strict regulations in terms of SMS messaging as a means to market to people. First, businesses can only send SMS messages to people who opt-in and choose to receive messages. Second, marketers must offer an easy and direct method to opt out of future text messages. There are other regulations that marketers need to know. For example, users have to be notified of any sign-up fees, and permission received by one company does not allow company affiliates or business associates to also message people who have opted in.
According to an article in Entrepreneur, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act can impose a fine between $500 to $1500 per unsolicited text message sent. So before sending out mass text messages to people who have yet to opt in, consider all the consequences and their costs.
A Costly Marketing Mistake
In 2010, Papa Johns hired OnTime4U, a mass text messaging service, to text ads to customers. Unfortunately, Papa Johns is now facing a $250 million lawsuit. The lawsuit claims that Papa Johns sent out hundreds of thousands of text messages to customers who never opted in to receive text messages from Papa Johns. According to the lawsuit, some Papa John franchises gave lists of customers and their contact information to OnTime4U without getting the customers permissions first.
If Papa Johns loses the lawsuit, they will face one of the largest damages awards ever given under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. Since the lawsuit claims that 500,000 messages were sent to customers without permission, and $500 should be paid for each text message. That is a total of $250 million.
Plaintiff lawyer Donald Heyrich said in a statement. “If you do not have permission from your customers, do not send them text messages.”
Learn from Other SMS Message Marketing Mistakes
Before you and your company face a situation similar to Papa Johns, learn everything there is about SMS messaging services. Learn and understand the federal guidelines related to SMS messaging and marketing practices. When you sign up for text messaging services, make sure you explain everything you want to get out of the service and the parameters of your messages. Train all of your employees so they are aware of the regulations and the parameters that are in place. And as a final safety net, do not pass on customer lists to anyone, especially your contracted messaging provider, unless those customers have opted-in to messaging services or given permission for them to be contacted.
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