Big piece of news in the SMS marketing world this week: on November 30th the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) issued a Declaratory Ruling that confirmatory STOP text messages do not violate the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA).
1) At Odds: The TCPA And The Mobile Industry
The TCPA restricts the use of auto-dialers to make non-emergency calls without consent. In layman’s terms: “conduct telephone marketing only if you have explicit consent.” The TCPA passed in 1991, years before text messaging and text message marketing became widespread communication channels. However, because the TCPA covers telephones, text messaging falls under its purview.
Meanwhile, with text messaging’s increasing popularity, mobile marketing industry regulators had to decide on a list of guidelines in order to ensure that SMS marketing remained spam free. One of these guidelines required companies send a confirmation message after a consumer opted out of an SMS marketing program (i.e. a message delivered immediately after a consumer texted STOP to a short code).
2) Resulting Confusion:
Some folks felt that these confirmation messages, known colloquially as “STOP confirms,” violated the TCPA, since they constituted non-emergency calls sent without explicit consent. Others felt that STOP confirms were essential, as they provided concrete evidence of a successful opt-out.
The conflicting camps put brands and vendors between the proverbial rock and hard place. Violating the TCPA resulted in monetary fines. Violating industry regulations resulted in restrictive sanctions from mobile marketing’s governing bodies.
3) The FCC Ruling:
Clearly, the TCPA and mobile marketing industry needed to find solid ground. And that’s exactly what this latest ruling represents: brands and vendors can now freely send opt-out confirmation messages without risking penalties from the FCC.
Going forward, it will be interesting to track how this ruling impacts the mobile marketing industry. We’ll be sure to keep you informed, and please let us know if you have any other questions about STOP confirms by posting to the comments.