What are the features and restrictions of SMS services in the United States?

SMS Marketing in the US is governed by the regulations and laws set forth by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA).

Telephone Consumer Protection Act - TCPA

The TCPA stands for 'Telephone Consumer Protection Act' and is the federal legislation (originally written in 1991) that governs telemarketing, text messaging, and the Do-Not-Call list. While these laws don't explicitly mention anything about SMS, it's been ruled that texts are treated as phone calls under the TCPA. These laws exist to protect people from unsolicited text messages and phone calls.

Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association - CTIA

The CTIA stands for 'Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association' and is a trade group that represents wireless carriers and others in the telecom industry. The CTIA maintains the Short Code Monitoring Handbook which lays out additional guidelines for SMS marketing. The CTIA's guidelines align with TCPA laws to protect people from unwanted text messages but extend further to help marketers create a better experience for consumers.

SMS Compliance Guidelines

Below are some general guidelines / best practices you can follow:

  1. Obtain proper consent: You must obtain consent from the mobile subscriber before sending any SMS messages. The consent should be opt-in and clearly disclose the frequency and nature of messages.
  2. Include opt-out instructions: Every SMS message should include clear and easy-to-follow instructions on how to opt-out of receiving further messages.
  3. Provide customer support: Your SMS messaging program should include customer support options for subscribers to receive assistance
  4. Comply with content restrictions: SMS messages should comply with all content restrictions and regulations

Campaigns Prohibited:

  • - Loan advertisements except for messages from direct lenders for secured loans
  • - Payday loans
  • - Credit repair
  • - Debt relief
  • - Pharmacy/Cannabis/Tobacco/Vape
  • - ED
  • - Work from home, 'secret shopper' and similar advertising campaigns
  • - Gambling/sweepstakes
  • - Cryptocurrencies
  • - Lead generation campaigns that indicate the sharing of collected information with third parties

Messaging Prohibited:

  • - Message streams that result in excessive complaints or STOP commands typically indicate an unwanted message campaign and will not be allowed to continue.
  • - Phishing: Messages that attempt to obtain sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords, or financial information, through fraudulent means are strictly prohibited.
  • - Fraud or scams: Messages that deceive subscribers by promoting fraudulent or misleading offers, schemes, or scams are not allowed.
  • - Messages that use deceptive marketing practices or false claims to promote products or services are prohibited.
  • - Messages that distribute malware or direct subscribers to download apps from non-secure locations are strictly prohibited.
  • - Loan, debt consolidation, debt relief, and student loan programs from any enterprise that cannot grant the loan themselves: Enterprises that cannot grant loans themselves are not allowed to promote loan, debt consolidation, debt relief, and student loan programs.
  • - Affiliate lead generation for these financial programs is also prohibited.

US SMS Delivery Options:

Introduction 10DLC is just the new name for sending primarily 1-way A2P messages over local long codes. In the past using local long codes was primarily for 2-way conversational traffic (P2P) but companies were using it for 1-way traffic as well. If you wanted to send any kind of volume of messages via long codes (more than a few hundred a day) you had to use a pool of senders because velocity filters would treat high volumes of messages coming from one sender as SPAM and automatically block the sender. Now with 10DLC registration you can send higher volumes of messages from a single sender. This works really well for sending under about 2,000 messages per day and if you or your customer wants a local sender in their area. External vetting is also available for an additional fee to get more than 2,000 messages per day per sender. A few years ago Operators started allowing SMS to be delivered via the toll free number pool that was previously only for voice calls. Toll free numbers are also 10 digits long but all start with one of the following dial codes: 1800, 1888, 1877, 1866, 1855, 1844 or 1833. This route allows for handset DLR (delivery receipt) instead of the less accurate gateway DLR provided on 10 DLC. The route also did not have a volume limit per sender like long codes do so it was ideal for business use. Additionally, the service comes with auto responders built in for STOP, HELP and CANCEL responses from mobile subscribers, and has a gateway maintained opt-out database per sender. The route currently has the same content restrictions as 10 DLC. In the USA a short code is a dedicated 5 or 6 digit sender ID assigned to a specific brand for a specific purpose or campaign. A good example is a bank sending one time codes to their customers for 2 factor authentication. This is the most premium SMS service in the USA as it has handset DLR and goes through a lengthy vetting process. There are several requirements to get one of these codes approved, they take about 1-2 months to get fully approved and have significant monthly and setup fees, so they are typically used by larger corporations with very high volume sending. Client needs to show opt-in process and be able to handle auto responders for HELP/STOP/CANCEL as well as maintain opt-out database per campaign.
Type of Number & Example Long Number (Example: 13458677777) Toll-Free Number (Example: 18885555555) 5 or 6 digit Short Code (Example: 12345)
Suggested Use Cases High volumes, Marketing, 2FA, Alerts, 2FA, Notifications, Customer Care, Alerts, Higher Education, Low Volume Mixed, Marketing, Polling and Voting, Public Service Announcement Low - Medium volumes, 2FA, Non-Marketing & Marketing, Customer Service, Alert Notifications High Volume School/Flight/Appt reminders
Approval Process To send messages via this route, it is necessary to register brands and campaigns with TCR (The Campaign Registry) as required by the Operators and interconnected gateways. TCR is an independent registry authorized to register brands and campaigns with T-Mobile and AT&T. Although Verizon, the other major USA operator, is currently not participating, registration requirements are not as strict at this time. Clients must show their opt-in process and ability to handle auto responders for HELP/STOP/CANCEL and maintain opt-out databases per campaign. To send messages through this route, we must obtain approval from the toll-free gateway for our campaigns. Although they require less information than TCR for 10DLC, their content guidelines are still strict. If the campaign volume is less than 25,000 per month, we can proceed without official gateway approval, but we must adhere to all regulations, and our support department must review the verification form submitted. To send messages through this route, we must obtain campaign approval from the Operators.
Time to register 2-7 business days 5-15 business days 1-2 months
Canadian Reach Yes Yes No (User must purchase a Canadian Short Code)
2-Way Possible Yes Yes Yes
Concatenated Yes Yes Yes
Unicode Yes Yes Yes
How to order Email your request to sales@moceanapi.com Email your request to sales@moceanapi.com Email your request to sales@moceanapi.com

For further assistance, do raise a support ticket with our Support Team at support@moceanapi.com.

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