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Texting 101

How you can legally text your customers

Nina Godlewski
6
minute read

Texting your business customers or patients is almost as easy as simply picking up your phone or computer and sending out a quick message, but there are some rules and regulations to be aware of.

You should always be texting from a business texting platform. There are some significant risks of texting from your personal device. So you should be sure to use a platform that comes with built-in safety and security features like Textline. We can cover a lot of the safety features you need to follow to help you be sure your messaging is secure and protected.

There isn’t really one centralized place to find all of the laws pertaining to how to text legally, so we’ve rounded up a few of the regulations and rules for you to follow.

What is the TCPA?

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991, also called the TCPA, was created to help protect consumers from telemarketers and robocalling in the 90s. But it encompasses all kinds of communication that have come about in the digital age, including text messages. This rule is what requires you to get the written consent of customers you wish to message.

What is The Campaign Registry?

The Campaign Registry is a new regulating group aimed at helping to limit fraud and spam. The registry was created by wireless carriers for SMS, MMS and requires that any business sending messages use the application to person protocol or A2P.

Anyone sending A2P messages must register with The Campaign Registry. You can read a full explainer of it here. You can think of registering with The Campaign Registry as getting TSA PreCheck or Global Entry, but for your business messaging. By registering, your business and numbers will essentially be pre-approved for messaging for your specific use case. This can help ensure that your messages are actually delivered and that they don’t end up flagged or blocked by the carriers.

Textline can help you register with The Campaign Registry and understand how to fill out the application. You can also refer to our Help Center for more information.

What about HIPAA compliant texting?

Any time you’re communicating and including any sort of personal health information of an individual, you need to be sure your communication is HIPAA compliant. This requires a certain amount of security, which Textline can offer with its HIPAA compliant plan.

You must to adhere to HIPAA even when texting with a client about their own health if you’re sharing personal information or if they might share personal information with you. What constitutes as personal health information? We made a full guide for you to explain just what is HIPAA compliance, where you can learn all about the intricacies of HIPAA-compliant texting. And another guide about how to legally text about medical-related information.

How to be sure you’re legally texting customers

Here are some important markers for checking whether you’re texting legally.

Opt-ins and consent

When texting for business purposes, you must have the consent of the person you’re texting. If you’re HIPAA texting, you’ll need a double opt-in.

Opt-ins frequently comes in the form of a consent message that requests permission to send texts, which Textline can do for you. Consent to message can be gathered in a few other ways, like on a physical form a customer signs in person or an online prompt. No matter how you collect consent, though, you must keep a record of it, and you must gather it from anyone you intend to message.

It can be especially difficult to keep track of consent if you’re using a personal phone. Using a platform like Texting can help you collect and keep track of opt-ins and consent. Plus, you will only be able to text customers who have opted in, and those who have opted out will be tracked for you as well.

For a full explainer on SMS opt-ins, including when you need to get them, the difference between single and double opt-ins, and more, you can read our blog article on opt-ins.

Opt-outs

Just like you must get explicit opt-in from the people you text, you also need to give them an option to opt-out when they want to. This is a legal requirement, and you’ll have to provide customers with a means of unsubscribing from your SMS messaged.

Businesses also need to manage who has opted out and make sure that they don’t continue to receive texts even when they’ve asked not to. As a business, you can not legally continue to text someone after they’ve asked you not to.

To be sure that anyone who wants to opt-out can, Textline has set trigger words that automatically opt a user out. You can add custom words as well, but anything in the list below will trigger an opt-out:

  • Stop
  • Stop all
  • Unsubscribe
  • Cancel
  • End
  • Quit

Off-limits topics

Some topics are barred or heavily restricted when it comes to business SMS. The industry lingo refers to messages that include anything that falls under “S.H.A.F.T,” or sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, or tobacco (including vaping and marijuana).

These rules are based on federal regulations, so even things that might be legal in one state or another might still be barred from texting because of nationwide restrictions.

Firearms, tobacco, alcohol, and gambling messaging are allowed under some circumstances. There must be age restrictions around these topics to ensure that those messaging are of legal age. But short-code and long-code numbers can message about these topics if those age limits are met.

Generally, any business using business SMS should refrain from discussing the topics listed above with their customers. If your business falls under one of these topics, please reach out to Textline to discuss your options.

Marketing

There are some SMS regulations around using SMS for marketing purposes. You can’t market to any customer who hasn’t given you explicit permission to do so. This goes back to the issue of consent. Unless you have recorded the written consent of the person you’re messaging, you can’t market to them.

If you’re texting on a long code, or a standard 10-digit phone number, you need to refrain from only messaging customers for a marketing purpose. You can use texting to check in on an order from a customer or to see if they’d like to purchase another product you offer. But telecoms laws prevent explicitly marketing to customers via SMS on long codes.

You can use Textline’s announcements feature to send messages to multiple customers at once. Even if you use this feature, you need to ensure that you’re using it for a purpose other than marketing to your customers.

The bottom line: Legally texting your customers

When using SMS for your business communication, the bottom line is to be aware of the rules for the general business texting industry. Keep in mind that the best move for your business is to be registered with The Campaign Registry.

Disclaimer: The information in this article is the opinion of the Textline editorial team and is not intended as legal advice.

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