Robocalls and spam SMS /text messages are a white-hot topic right now, but they’re nothing new. Nearly thirty years ago, the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was written with these unwanted calls in mind. And even if that sounds like ancient history, it’s anything but: today, digital marketers who send unwanted messages can be hit with fines up to $1,500 per text message per customer. Ouch.
In today’s post, we’ll share a little background on the TCPA, including:
- Why was the TCPA enacted?
- Who needs to abide by the TCPA?
- What does the TCPA mean for digital marketers?
Why Was the TCPA Enacted?
The digital landscape in 1991 was vastly different from today. Back then, no country had more than 1 internet user 100 people. Today, roughly 88% of Americans use the internet. But that’s not to say that digital technology wasn’t affecting our daily lives. Owing to exponential growth in telecommunications technology in the preceding decade, by 1991 some 7,000,000 Americans were receiving automated calls each day from some 180,000 marketers.
That year Congress passed the TCPA to address the mounting backlog of consumer complaints. Mandating stiff financial penalties for those who run afoul of the law, the TCPA requires that marketers obtain express written consent to contact them. Since then, the TCPA has been updated to also include text messages.
Who Needs to Abide by the TCPA?
As we’ve written before, SMS messaging is a cost-effective way to connect with your customers. But if you make use of this powerful technology, you need to adhere to the TCPA. Who’s affected by the law?
- Digital marketers
- Dispensary (or other retail) owners and operators
- Anyone who relies on live or prerecorded calls, text and SMS messages for marketing purposes
That said, there are exceptions regarding what kind of calls do not constitute telemarketing. In addition to surveys and debt-collection notices, in its Report and Order of Feb. 15, 2012, the FCC provided a non-exhaustive list of other calls that may not be considered marketing calls.
What Does the TCPA Mean for Digital Marketers?
What are the best practices for being TCPA and CTIA compliant? Simple, really: the best results come through targeted efforts rather than “spray and pray” approaches, so do everything you can to ensure you’re reaching the highest-value customers with smart and effective marketing.
Here’s a short checklist:
- Get each customer’s explicit consent to receive informational messages via text / SMS. Written permission may include electronic or digital forms of signature (such as through a website form, a text message, or email).
- Keep accurate records of each customer’s consent.
- Disclose easy and accurate opt-out instructions, such as a “STOP” keyword.
- Disclose that normal messaging and data rates may apply.
- Be upfront and explicit if you’re asking people to subscribe to a recurring campaign such as a weekly or monthly updates). Clearly explain the regularity of text messaging (i.e. “sign up for weekly updates”).
- Only message people between the hours of 9am and 9pm.
- Be specific about what you’re offering. Messaging “Text YES to ### subscribe to Foottraffik’s weekly cannabis marketing updates” is more likely to increase your ROI than a message like “Text YES to subscribe.”
Simple enough, right? And remember this: There’s good news for marketers hidden in the mechanics of the TCPA. Yes, there are steep fines for violating its provisions, but the law is structured to discourage individuals from seeking damages outside the framework of a class-action lawsuit. In other words, this is a great time to review your practices and make sure you’re compliant moving forward. Stay on the right side of the law AND get better returns on your marketing efforts!