Back to Contents

SMS Marketing Laws in the USA, UK, EU, & More You Can’t Ignore

Despite the rise of other methods of electronic communication, SMS still delivers one of the highest open rates when it comes to marketing. With all of this success comes those who want to exploit it. This has led to many laws being created for the regulation of the SMS industry. You must be familiar with the SMS marketing laws for any country you wish to operate in, or send messages to.

SMS marketing laws in the USA

In order to create a regulated SMS marketing platform, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enacted several powerful laws that regulate text marketing in the USA, including the Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991.

According to the TCPA, every organization, business, and SMS provider is obliged to obtain written consent from individuals before they send them any SMS texts. In other words, unsolicited spam messages are strictly prohibited in the USA.

In order to appease the TCPA regulations, the consumers must have received clear disclosure of the text messages they will receive from the organization and must agree to receive these messages. In order to be fully transparent, a text message should include:

  • The sender’s identity
  • Opt-in and opt-out instructions
  • The time constraints of being sent between 8AM and 9PM

The consequences for not complying with these regulations include financial fees ranging from $500 to $1500 per text message sent to an individual who hasn’t provided consent. You absolutely must consider these laws as you build your SMS marketing campaign.

SMS marketing laws in the USA: The CAN-SPAM Act

Complementing to the rules established by the TCPA, the CAN-SPAM Act protects consumers from unwanted electronic messages. The CAN-SPAM Act prohibits commercial email messages sent to a mobile phone. Here, commercial messages are defined as advertisements or promotions for a service or a product.

The CAN-SPAM Act requires any text messages to obey the following laws:

  • Recipients must easily identify a message sent as an advertisement.
  • Recipients must have an easy way to unsubscribe from receiving further messages.
  • Senders must include a return email address and postal code.

I should note that these rules don’t extend to any messages that communicate about a certain existing transaction (such as a pending shipment) or relationship between two parties, or to non-commercial messages. However, the above-mentioned regulations are important for everyone contemplating a promotional SMS marketing campaign.

SMS marketing laws in the UK

In the United Kingdom, The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations, which is based on the Data Protection Act of 1998, regulates the text marketing laws. These regulations require businesses that use consumer’s personal information to inform them of how their information is being used.

Same as with previous acts, the PECR prohibits SMS marketing without prior consent. In the interest of consumer protection, the option to opt-out from an SMS marketing campaign is also required.

SMS marketing laws in Australia

Australia’s Spam Act of 2003 makes it illegal to send unwanted commercial electronic messages, including text and email marketing. This act makes it easier for businesses to send commercial SMS texts, compared to the regulations set in the USA.

According to the Spam Act, for an SMS marketing campaign to be legitimate, it will only suffice if the recipient has an existing relationship with the business.

As with other SMS marketing laws, the Spam Act requires senders to provide an opt-out option in order to stop receiving any further messages. Australia’s Spam Act differs from other acts because it allows users to buy a list of contacts from other organizations and use them in their marketing communications; provided these contacts have agreed to receive messages from third parties.

SMS marketing laws in the EU

The latest of these acts, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation, came into effect on May 25, 2018. This SMS marketing law is meant to improve data security. This law applies to every country that wants to do business with the EU and to use EU citizens’ personal data.

This law improves the data security which is specifically related to the storing and transport of data. The new GDPR law will affect not only SMS marketing campaigns, but also digital data security in general.

With the law being enforced so recently, you may not be up to date with all the new changes. That’s why you should revise the data security components of your SMS marketing campaign and make sure to comply with the new regulations.

Common SMS marketing laws across the world

After reading this, you will see that there are some common threads. You will find these common rules amongst the SMS laws of nearly every country:

  1. Senders must have consent before sending.
  2. Receivers must have the option to easily opt out of future messages.
  3. How data is being used must be monitored.

These three points are present in all the laws above, and in the laws of many other countries. Here are a few others to look at:

The wording may change here and there, and some new additions may be added, but most SMS marketing laws around the world follow the three main points above. Always design your SMS marketing campaign with those three in mind, and then alter it slightly as needed for each country in your global SMS marketing campaign goals.

Matthew