SMS Compliance

7 Tips for Text Messaging and SMS Compliance

Understanding the laws and regulations of SMS marketing will help you avoid penalties and provide transparency to your customers.

You’re here because you want to understand the laws and regulations before you start your text message marketing campaigns. To avoid getting penalized for an advertising campaign, it’s critical that you be fully aware of the SMS compliance guidelines.

Luckily, compliance isn’t that difficult. At the end of this guide, you’ll have gained a holistic understanding of SMS marketing compliance and know how to successfully send a compliant text marketing campaign on your own.

SMS Compliance Written Consent

What is SMS Compliance?

SMS compliance refers to the governance applied to SMS marketing. First off, compliance isn’t a choice – every contact and campaign included in your outbound SMS efforts must follow a strict set of guidelines.

When these compliance standards are broken, you can receive significant fines, up to $500 per text message. To stay SMS compliant, follow our 7-step checklist, and include additional safeguards as needed.

7 SMS Compliance Considerations Checklist

Get ready to begin your outbound SMS marketing campaigns with compliance at the forefront. Stick with these 7 steps and your campaigns will be successful.

1. Express Written Consent

Written consent is the first step in sending a compliant SMS campaign. According to the TCPA SMS compliance rule, your users must “express written consent” prior to sending them text marketing campaigns.

When you ask for consent, it needs to be clear – you can’t bury the consent deep in your terms and conditions. The recipient should know exactly what they’re opting in for.

Users can obtain written consent in a number of ways, including:

  • Using a keyword opt-in method. Users can text a number that you have provided to them on your website or email with a specified keyword.
  • On your blog or homepage, include the ability for users to opt-in using a form
  • Send your email users an email asking them if they would like to opt-in to your SMS campaign. Embed a form into your email so that they can quickly and easily submit their phone number and required information
  • Have a form available at your physical location where people can easily subscribe

2. Existing Contacts

There is no grandfathering rule when it comes to existing contacts. If you have a list already uploaded, you still need to get the consent of those users in order to include them in your SMS campaigns. 

For the existing contacts, the best way to get your previously uploaded contacts to opt-in is by sending them an email asking whether they would like to be included in future text campaigns. When you receive their consent is the only time that you can re-include them in your campaign.

3. Transparency

Include details about your campaign so your customer knows exactly what they’re opting in for. You can create a pdf version of this and attach it next to your CTA so that users can click and view the details before they are prompted to opt-in. This should include the following:

Automated Messages
Included in the TCPA rule under “express written consent”, users must also agree to receive automated marketing campaigns. For example: If a customer has an abandoned item in your cart and your automated system automatically sends them a message, the user must opt-in to receive those kinds of promotional messages.

Campaign Details
Let your subscriber know exactly what they’re opting in for. Letting your users know from the beginning will create a more desirable, highly engaged customer base.

Message Frequency
How often do you intend to text your users? A best practice is about 2-4 times per month.

Let your customers know roughly how often you aim to send them a text. If you decide to increase the message frequency, ask your customers if they would still like to be included in your text marketing campaigns.

Data Rates
Unlimited texting plans are the most common phone plan these days. However, some users may still pay to receive messages. You should let your subscribers know the fee involved to receive messages.

Terms and Privacy Policy
Provide a link to your Terms and Privacy Policy. These will provide clarity to your customers about what should happen in any given situation and instil trust with the users who subscribe.

4. S.H.A.F.T.

S.H.A.F.T. is an acronym that stands for sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco that restricts SMS marketers from using these terms or concepts. This law was created by the CTIA, a trade association that represents the wireless communications industry in the United States.

Breaking this law can result in serious violations, including an immediate ban.

There are a few exceptions for businesses, such as bars, that sell alcohol. As long as they ensure the subscribers are 21+, they’re free to send promotional messages about happy hour specials.

Confirmation Message

5. Confirmation Message

It doesn’t matter how users opt-in to your campaign, the first message you send to them should be a message confirming the opt-in. In this confirmation message, you should include the details from section 3, such as:

  • Company identity
  • Message Frequency
  • Data Rates
  • How to opt-out

6. Reconfirmation Message (Best Practice)

Every now and then, it’s best practice to confirm with your customers whether they would still like to be included in your SMS campaigns. If they no longer want to be included, they will always have the ability to easily re-subscribe in the future.

If you can weed out a few unwanted recipients here or there, you can save some extra money in the long term. Even though reconfirmation messages aren’t required to be SMS compliant, it’s best practice to ensure the quality of your customer outreach.

7. Ability to opt-out

Your users should know that they have the ability to unsubscribe from your campaign. All they have to do is reply “Stop” to any of your messages.

This is handled at the carrier level and you will not be able to send them any future campaigns. If they wish to opt back in, they can text “Start”.


It’s critical to understand SMS marketing compliance before you begin your campaign. As long as you follow our 7-step checklist, you shouldn’t have to worry about getting penalized. 

Disclaimer: The above information and advice are for informational purposes only. Cloud Contact AI and its affiliates are not responsible if your organization gets penalized. Your business should consult the appropriate legal counsel before you begin your SMS outreach.

Thurston Howell

Thurston Howell

Thurston Howell the Third was initially marooned on Gilligan's Island back in the 60s, but made his way back to civilization.

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