Regulations and Restrictions for SMS in the United States

SMS is one of the most effective means of communication that a business can utilize. With up to 98% open-rates, it’s no wonder it’s so popular.

However, there are quite a few rules and regulations regarding SMS and compliance is the most important thing to consider when choosing an SMS service. CCAI guarantees every campaign sent through us is compliant with any rules and regulations set in place in the United States. 

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What Rules and Regulations are in Place?

Developing a legal SMS marketing strategy requires familiarizing yourself with the law and ensuring compliance. Understanding the regulations set by The Wireless Association, also known as CTIA, is essential as they govern messaging practices in the United States. Working closely with your sales advisor can provide guidance in aligning your SMS marketing program with the latest legislation.

One critical regulation to be aware of is the prohibition by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) on sending SMS messages to a mobile phone using an auto-dialer without user approval, except in cases of emergency. This means that all numbers, regardless of their presence on the Do Not Call list, are subject to this ban. However, there is a solution for marketing messages, bulk texting, and communications with URLs – short codes. By obtaining approval for a short code, you will receive regulations specific to US short codes. For in-depth insights, the CTIA Short Code Monitoring Handbook provides further guidance on compliance.

It is important to note that person-to-person communication, such as appointment reminders, notifications, and announcements, is typically sent through long numbers. These longer numbers allow you to communicate with customers, staff, and other interested parties. However, it is crucial to understand that only lengthy numbers are subject to the constraints outlined by the regulations.

It is advisable not to solely rely on third-party companies overseeing your campaigns to ensure a comprehensive understanding of SMS marketing laws and compliance. It is crucial to take a proactive approach by familiarizing yourself with the law and ensuring all outgoing messages comply. Additionally, providing clear opt-in and opt-out instructions for your customers is necessary to respect their preferences and comply with consent requirements.

To ensure opt-in consent procedures are in place before texting contacts, a business must prioritize obtaining explicit permission from each individual before sending any messages. This means ensuring that contacts are fully aware of what type of messages they will receive, whether they are opting into receiving marketing messages, alerts, or other forms of communication. Transparency is key, so it’s crucial to communicate what recipients are signing up for clearly and to have a process in place for collecting phone numbers independently with the explicit purpose of sending text messages.

Softer Elements

Honoring the terms set for an SMS marketing campaign is crucial for several reasons. Firstly, it is essential to maintain trust and credibility with your customers. When you make promises about the frequency of messages or any other aspect of your campaign, customers expect you to be true to your word. Failing to uphold these terms may result in customers losing faith in your brand and seeking alternatives for their needs.

Secondly, by consistently adhering to the agreed-upon terms, you show respect for your customers’ preferences and boundaries. If you commit to sending a limited number of messages monthly, it is crucial to stick to that number or even send fewer. Overwhelming customers with excessive messages can be highly frustrating and may encourage them to opt-out or unsubscribe from your communication, leading to potential loss of business.

Furthermore, promptly honoring opt-out requests is equally important. When a customer decides to opt-out, it is necessary to remove them from your subscription list immediately. This demonstrates your respect for their choice and ensures compliance with legal regulations. Failure to remove opt-out requests promptly can negatively affect your brand reputation and may even result in legal implications if laws regarding SMS marketing are violated.

Tangentially related, to remain compliant with regulations, businesses should avoid discussing certain topics in text messages. These prohibited topics include language that is deemed inappropriate or offensive, such as that covered under the acronym SHAFT. However, there are exceptions to this rule. For instance, if a business operates a bar or restaurant, they may send text messages regarding promotions like happy hour deals, provided that age restrictions are in place and the messages are not targeting individuals under the age of 21.

Ultimately, honoring the terms set for your SMS marketing campaign is vital for maintaining customer satisfaction, trust, and compliance with legal requirements. It shows your commitment to providing a positive experience for your customers while safeguarding your brand’s integrity in the marketplace.

Restriction Description
DND exists No
Time restrictions No
International vs local split No
Local traffic N/A
International traffic N/A
General content restrictions
  • Harmful content is not allowed
  • URLs have a high probability of being blocked
  • Recipients need to consent to receive marketing communication in writing (i.e. email or other) before you start sending marketing messages to them
  • The symbol for Euro (€) is not supported
Content registration required No
Opt-out instructions required


  • Each marketing SMS must contain an opt-out option
  • Two-way numbers are mandatory to ensure that people can unsubscribe
Sender ID regulations
  • All messages must either be sent and delivered with a US short code or long code
  • Message volumes for each long number are limited to 5,000 per day. Exceeding this limit could result in your number being blocked
Sender ID documentation required N/A
Country supports MNP Yes


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Let your customers text you with a keyword of your choice to make opting in quick and easy.

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“CCAI was very easy to roll out to our company. It requires zero knowledge of coding and has an intuitive user-friendly interface. We are able to send text campaigns about payment reminders, game reminders, and more. The response rates we’ve received while using CCAI have far exceeded our expectations.”

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