The marketing establishment has been collectively shaking its head over a complex ruling that requires opt-out information in SMS text messages sent by automated systems.
This is a matter of some importance for Mobivity customers. Rather than a problem, we think it’s an opportunity to serve consumers better and reinforce trust. Here’s our point of view:
The controversial TCPA Declaratory Ruling and Order, handed down July 10th by the FCC, is an interpretation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), the Federal law that regulates telemarketing.
The Declaratory Ruling covers a variety of issues and practices that affect consumer marketers who use auto-dialers. Of particular interest to Mobivity users is a confirmation that automated SMS text messages are subject to the same consumer protections under the TCPA as voice calls. The FCC rejected the counter-argument that they are more akin to instant messages or emails.
SMS marketers may respectfully disagree with this interpretation. After all, when consumers opt in to a SMS loyalty program, they give explicit permission for us to contact them on their mobile devices. We continue to earn this permission by providing valuable content and offers.
Whether we agree or not, as marketers we are obligated to follow the guidelines prescribed by the Declaratory Ruling – or face legal consequences. But the regulators leave the exact format of the message to individual marketers, which sets up a potential peril.
Looking at how best to address the TCPA Declaratory Ruling, Mobivity initially implemented a longer version of our auto-appended opt-out information that ran to 69 characters. Customers raised concern this was too much real estate to sacrifice in a message format that is already limited to a total of 160 characters. This is why we have elected, after careful study, consideration, and valued input from several of our customers (which we are grateful to have received), to append the following 25 characters to every outgoing SMS text message we generate:
Adding these 25 characters enables every SMS recipient to instantly control or opt out of the program through a simple toll-free phone call. It follows the letter and spirit of the Declaratory Ruling. More importantly, it visibly serves the better interests of the consumers who participate in SMS mobile marketing programs.
The assurance means no consumer ever needs to ask a store employee to facilitate an opt-out from the SMS marketing program. In the rare instance where they may be asked, the associate merely needs to remind the customer that the instructions are appended to the message already on their phone. Opt-outs happen through a quick call, using a practice that is transparent to regulators.
For SMS marketers, 25 characters may still seem like a lot of real estate to give up on the small screen. When brands, consumers and customer-facing staff all benefit, however, it’s a small sacrifice for the greater good. Read more about this on the TCPA Blog.