Disclaimer – This is an informative guide on TCPA and does not seek to provide legal advice on the subject. We recommend you seek advice from a legal professional regarding any questions about your text message marketing campaigns.
Business text messaging is an invaluable communication tool to connect with customers.
But it also has its complexities when it comes to regulations and mandates surrounding a customer’s right to privacy and your right to contact them.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act, more commonly known as TCPA, is one such major statute that you need to be conscious of while sending text messages during customer outreach.
So, what’s TCPA and what does it mean for your business? Let’s start with the basics.
What is TCPA?
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), that was signed into law in 1991, is federal legislation pertaining to telemarketing. Designed to protect the customers’ right to privacy, it was brought into effect to provide consumers a much-needed relief from unsolicited sales calls and messages.
The TCPA is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), an independent agency of the US government.
Barring some exceptions, the TCPA clearly specifies that businesses are not allowed to contact customers via phone calls or text messages on residential numbers as well as mobile phones without their consent.
What does TCPA mean for your business?
The TCPA Declaratory Ruling and Order of 2015 outlines how TCPA is to be interpreted by the FCC with regards to telemarketing as well as consumer rights.
To simply put, you must ensure that your messaging content and contact list is in compliance with TCPA guidelines as well as all applicable State and Federal laws because subscribers can sue you if you don’t adhere to these guidelines.
Why is it important to be TCPA-compliant?
Not obtaining prior consent from your customers before contacting them and not adhering to other regulations outlined by the TCPA can land you into serious legal trouble. Violations can result in class-action lawsuits with fines starting at $500 and going up to $1500 per customer for every text message sent. In addition to the legal repercussions, you will also have to deal with the backlash from your consumers if you do not respect their right to privacy. Not a good place to be in, right?
What does TCPA specifically prohibit?
TCPA prohibitions can be broadly classified into three categories. These are the three main types of violations that you should be aware of when contacting a customer-
- Contacting people on the National Do Not Call Registry – The Federal Trade Commission created the National Do Not Call Registry in 2003 and put in place regulations that prohibit telemarketers from contacting customers on that list.
- Robocalls, automated dialing and automated messages – If you text a customer, without prior permission, using automated messaging, that constitutes as a TCPA violation.
- Using pre-recorded voice messages - Sending pre-recorded voice messages without consent is also a violation of TCPA
How to ensure your outreach and marketing is TCPA compliant?
The first and foremost step you must take to ensure TCPA compliance is to obtain prior expressed consent from the customers before contacting them. Obtaining contact numbers of customers should not be confused with consent – you still have to ask for their permission before you call or text them. This bit is absolutely non-negotiable.
While obtaining consent, you must disclose to the customers what this permission entails and whether it is subject to any conditions. This will ensure transparency between both parties involved and will reduce the risk of any breaches.
Secondly, you must also ensure that you’re providing customers with an easy way to opt-out of receiving any communication from you. If a customer opts out of communication and marks you as Do-Not-Contact, immediately stop all communication with that number.
The bottom line?
Remember, the purview of TCPA applies to communications that are considered a nuisance. It does not apply to helpful and informative text messaging outreach manually done by a real person rather than an automated robot. If you obtain prior consent from customers before communicating with them and establish a relationship with them before sending across any information, you don’t need to worry about TCPA violations.