US SMS Marketing Laws – Everything you Need to Know

us sms marketing laws

SMS marketing can help your business, as with its help you can reach many customers directly. But when you want to start using SMS Marketing as a part of your business promotion, you need to make sure you know the right legislation to follow. In this article, you’ll learn everything you need about US SMS marketing laws.

Before launching your SMS marketing campaign, you need to keep in mind these two US SMS Marketing laws: the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the CAN-SPAM Act.

If you don’t follow the text message privacy laws and regulations, which are made to protect consumers, you are risking getting fined and paying massive penalties. There are not many laws you need to know. Actually, only two are the most important. So here we are going to talk about main text message laws in the US to ensure you follow the best practices.

In order to avoid any penalties, you need to keep yourself informed about the main rules and regulations according to US marketing laws. In this article, you will learn about everything you need to know to run successful SMS marketing campaigns. Let’s start!

How to Leverage SMS Marketing Legally

There are strict text marketing regulations, that’s why you need to be very careful and attentive to all the details to build your SMS strategy. Here are some of the best practices to make your SMS campaigns compliant.

  1. Make sure customers gave you consent to send them text messages

Consent is the most important factor you need to pay attention to. You can’t just add random numbers to your marketing list. It’s not only annoying to the customers but also illegal. Written consent is a great way to get customers’ permission to send them text marketing messages.

Also, you can’t ask your customers to purchase something without their written consent. There are several most common ways you can get subscribers to your text marketing list. You can have a special form on your website for subscription to text messages or users can text-to-join manually.

Another important aspect is that if you’re using web forms, you must provide consent on a form and get a confirmation follow-up from your subscriber. This is according to the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA). Businesses usually use shortcodes or direct text consent, because it requires fewer actions from customers.

  1. Create an auto-reply that has all of the needed information to adhere to the guidelines 

The auto-reply shows people that they’ve joined your text marketing list. This reply should contain specific information, which the customers expect to get. This information should also adhere to CTIA guidelines.

  1. Create easy opt-out directions in your auto-reply, in case your customer wants to unsubscribe

You must always provide your subscribers with needed information about how to unsubscribe from your marketing list. If you do not do so, you are going against the text marketing law. 

  1. Make sure you keep your messages consistent, as you mentioned in a compliance statement

When a subscriber signs up for your SMS marketing messages, he will receive a statement, where it’s mentioned how many messages they can get. If you don’t follow the frequency, there is a high chance you will lose your subscriber trust. That’s why before doing SMS marketing you need to plan everything and make a commitment to stick to it.

US Regulatory Organizations

In the US, SMS marketing is regulated under the law. SMS marketing is legal, however, marketers should pay attention and follow the legislation. The specific commission, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) governs all requirements for SMS marketing.

In addition to this commission, there are two more regulatory bodies, such as the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) and the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA). However, these bodies don’t enforce any legal requirements or fines. They serve as additional forces to monitor different marketing violations. MMA helps businesses to follow best practices, according to laws.

So, basically, there are three organizations that regulate SMS texting: the Federal Communications Commission, the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association, and the Mobile Marketing Association. 

The CTIA and MMA are focused on encouraging the best SMS marketing practices. The FCC is a government agency with powers to enact laws, including the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the CAN-SPAM Act.

CTIA is in charge of providing the networks to make SMS messaging possible. They can stop providing SMS services to businesses if they see they have violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the CAN-SPAM Act.

If businesses don’t follow the laws and rights of US consumers, they could face fines starting from $500 and up to $1500 per one text message that consumers didn’t ask for.

US SMS Marketing Laws

The main SMS messaging privacy laws include the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the CAN-SPAM Act. However, it’s also important to mention that there are different text messaging laws depending on the state you’re in. 

That’s why businesses must carefully take into account every detail of the main messaging laws as well as additional laws by state.

Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

This law has been the FCC’s main regulation in electronic communications since 1991. According to the TCPA, businesses have to get written consent from the users before they can start sending them any messages. Even if the business already has the customer’s phone number, written consent is still required.

Also, consumers must receive clear disclosure of the text messages they will get from the business and must agree to receive all of these messages to their phone number. In order to get full transparency, texts must have the sender’s identity and instructions for unsubscribing if the user is willing to do so. 

The contacts must receive after they subscribed to the SMS marketing list: description of what they are subscribing to, a number of messages they are going to get, a link to the full terms and conditions of the privacy policy, and instructions to opt-out and unsubscribe.

Moreover, the texts can only be sent from 8 am to 9 pm to reduce the inconveniences for the customers. If businesses don’t follow these guidelines, they will have financial damages ranging from $500 to $1500 per text sent to customers who did not give consent. 

The TCPA is the primary anti-telemarketing law and the main regulator of SMS marketing. Written consent is the main requirement for businesses if they want to do SMS marketing. Written meaning, not on paper, but rather documented and saved consent, which can be an online form or text message.

Moreover, businesses should send texts using shortcodes (5-6-digit phone numbers) that prevent messages from going into spam. And using shortcodes shows that the communications are regulated by CTIA guidelines.

It’s good to note that you are not allowed to require a user to sign up for your text program as a condition to purchase any goods or services. The CTIA sets best practices for the SMS marketing industry. 

For example, SHAFT rules, which stand for sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco. Content, which includes these topics or is related to them in any way is considered the highest violation of the law and it leads to an immediate ban. Of course, there are some exceptions to this rule.

The CTIA also allows abbreviations of your terms and conditions and privacy policies, which:

  • must be clear
  • cannot be blocked by pop-up messages
  • should not have pre-checked confirmation boxes
  • must be accessible


The CAN-SPAM Act works together with TCPA and is the main text spam law in the United States. It complements the provisions mentioned in TCPA, as the CAN-SPAM Act doesn’t allow businesses to send out commercial email messages to a mobile phone. This law defines commercial messages as advertisements for a certain product or service.

However, this does not affect messages that communicate about transactions or relationships that already exist, or non-commercial messages. Under the CAN-SPAM Act, the Federal Communications Commission can regulate texts sent to wireless devices in order to protect consumers from unwanted commercial messages. 

This law requires that the commercial email is easily identifiable as promotion or advertisement, the consumer can quickly unsubscribe from receiving other messages and the business also must mention a return email address with a postal code.

The CAN-SPAM Act forbids businesses to send commercial and spam text messages to phone numbers. And this law does not apply to messages about completed transactions.

SMS messaging is a very powerful tool that businesses can use for their promotion. But if you don’t follow the regulations, you will have to pay penalties, which are quite high. A good understanding of regulations and requirements will help you to avoid these penalties. Above you can find an outline of everything you need to know about US SMS marketing laws.

SMS marketing is very customer-oriented. These laws and regulations make sure there are good personal privacy and sensitive data protection. Certain regulations make texting messaging trustworthy and customers can be really active in SMS marketing, which is good for businesses. 

This type of marketing is constantly growing and evolving, that’s why you need to make sure you keep up with marketing trends to be ahead of your competition and stand out in the eyes of your customers.

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