What are the SMS Marketing Laws

SMS marketing laws vary from country to country. These laws are created to protect the identity, personal information, and health of the public.

There are several laws that companies need to be aware of when using planning a marketing campaign that uses texting or SMS messaging.  

SMS marketing, also known as text messaging marketing, has seen a tremendous rise in popularity due to its high return on investment (ROI). When done correctly, the typical ROI for SMS marketing maybe around 500 percent in 2021.

Floods of marketers, including smaller firms, are using text message marketing in their arsenal due to these high success rates. Thanks to their simple setups, many of these SMS systems made it possible to deliver thousands of messages with the press of a button.

Text message marketing, on the other hand, has a few drawbacks. Although text message marketing is still in its early stages, there are several rules and legislation to consider when putting one in place.

This post will look at text message marketing laws in the United States, Canada, and the European Union, as well as what business owners need to know to be compliant with each one.

What Countries do Have Texting Laws?

Almost every country has laws or regulations around text message marketing, but the specifics vary wildly. Let’s look at some of the well-known SMS marketing laws in certain regions.

1. SMS Marketing Laws in the USA

SMS Marketing Laws in the USA

Stringent SMS rules tightly control the electronic communication industry in the United States. In addition to these federal regulations, firms must also comply with all text messaging laws applicable to their area by state.

1. Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA)

The CTIA is a wireless service trade association representing the cellular telecommunications industry across the United States. CTIA started in 1984 and consisted of four key groups: wireless carriers, manufacturers, retailers, and suppliers.

In 2010, the CTIA brought out codes of conduct specifically for text message marketing by its member carriers.

The code of conduct states that all text message marketers must have permission from consumers before sending them texts with the following exceptions:

‘Emergency services communications’ by telecom companies or local authorities’ Carrier business communications,’ i.e., contract updates, appointment reminders, etc., by telecoms companies

2. Mobile Marketing Association (MMA)

The MMA is the leading global trade association for companies involved in mobile marketing. It provides education, representation, and opportunities to help members grow their businesses across all mobile marketing channels.

The MMA has set out guidelines for marketers operating in North America, which are some of the best practices for SMS marketing. Although not law, following these guidelines will help keep you on the right side of the FTC.

3. Federal Communications Commission (FCC)

The FCC is an independent agency of the United States government, responsible for regulating interstate and international communications by radio, television, wire, satellite, and cable.

The FCC monitors and enforces compliance with the Communications Act of 1934, which promotes competition and establishes service goals in all markets.

In 2003, The United States Supreme Court delivered a ruling on the case of the FCC v. The Pacifica Foundation, which stated that broadcast media had special obligations not applicable to other media such as print or the Internet.

4. Federal Trade Commission (FTC)

The FTC is an independent United States government agency that protects consumers from unfair or deceptive business practices. The FTC started in 1914 and had a broad remit that covers everything from antitrust to privacy to advertising.

In 2010, the FTC published a study of interest to marketers called “Mobile Marketing: A Report on Industry Trends.” The report summarised US consumer views on mobile marketing and set some guidelines for firms operating in this area.

Aside from these four primary Text Messaging Laws in the US, there is also two text messaging privacy laws enforced in the United States, namely:

Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the originator of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). The TCPA is a federal law regulating text message marketing and is the primary anti-telemarketing legislation.

Under the TCPA, companies shall not contact customers without their permission. Even if an individual provides their phone number or has a long-standing relationship with the company, it may not text them unless they have written consent.


The CAN-SPAM Act is the primary spam law in the United States and works with the TCPA. The FCC may enforce commercial text regulations on mobile devices to safeguard consumers from unwanted commercial messages.

The CAN-SPAM Act was enacted in 2004 and modified several times since then. It prohibits companies from sending unwanted text messages to cell phone numbers and mandates that recipients recognize any commercial message. Customers must also have the ability to unsubscribe from future communications.

The CAN-SPAM Act does not apply to transactions or relationships already in existence, such as delivery notifications.

2. SMS Marketing Laws in the EU

SMS Marketing Laws in the EU

The European Union (EU) enforces regulations on electronic communications, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which is a set of privacy rules that protect EU citizens’ personal information.

What is General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)?

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is a data protection law in the EU that governs how companies collect and use individuals residing in the European Union.

It applies to all businesses and organizations, regardless of their location in each EU member state. It replaces the previous Data Protection Directive 95/46/EC, which has been in effect since 1995.

Unlike the previous directive, GDPR is a regulation rather than a directive. It directly affects all EU member states, and there’s no transposition required to make it immediately enforceable. There are also penalties for noncompliance or failing to meet GDPR standards.

GDPR will affect any business that trades with data, even those that don’t operate in the EU. The regulation applies to any organization that uses personal data from people in the EU, collected from a website form or by email.

For an organization to meet GDPR standards, they must:

  • Be transparent with how they’re using personal data and get the consent of individuals
  • Allow customers to see what personal data is held about them, update it if necessary, and upon request, delete it from databases.
  • Provide more robust security controls to protect personal data from loss or theft.

A parent or guardian must provide explicit consent if their child is under 16 years old and wants to subscribe. They do this by providing their mobile telephone number to a commercial service.

Under GDPR, parental consent is also required for organizations that want to process the personal data of children under 16 for marketing purposes. It includes using their data to create profiles or target them with ads.

Organizations must also take steps to protect children from harm, including the risk of physical, psychological, or economic damage. If a child can access their data by themselves, both the parent and child should give consent.

3. SMS Marketing Laws in the UK

SMS Marketing Laws in the UK

The GDPR also has supporting rules in the United Kingdom, which work in tandem with it. The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) and the Data Protection Act are two such rules.

What are Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR)?

The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) enhance communications privacy protection for individuals within the UK.

These rules govern how organizations can use personal data when sending marketing text messages, emails, or automated calls to individuals living in the UK. They also regulate direct marketing activity that tracks customer behavior online through cookies or similar technology.

What is Data Protection Act?

The Data Protection Act (DPA) was created to protect the privacy of individuals when their data is processed. The Act has eight principles that must be followed when handling data. These principles are:

1. Personal data must be processed fairly and lawfully

2. Data must be collected for a specific and lawful purpose

3. Data must be adequate, relevant, and not excessive for the purpose it is being processed

4. Data must not be kept for longer than necessary to process it

5. Personal data should only be processed if a person has given their consent or if there’s a contractual need to do so

6. The use of sensitive personal data should be justified, and it can’t be used in certain situations

7. All organizations processing data must have adequate security in place to protect the integrity of personal data.

Consumers should be informed about how data is processed, who it’s being disclosed to, and what purpose. These rules apply to any organization that processes personal data gathered from individuals within the UK, whether or not they are residents.

4. SMS Marketing Laws in Canada

SMS Marketing Laws in Canada

In 2014, Canada passed the Canada Anti-Spam Legislation, often known as CASL. This text spam legislation is comparable to the Telemarketing Prevention Act of 1991.

What is Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)?

Canada’s Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL) came into effect on July 1, 2014, and is one of the most rigid anti-spam laws in the world.

It prohibits sending of commercial emails and texts to people without their express permission. In essence, this means you cannot email or text anyone in the hopes of them buying your product.

It includes sending people updates on products they have purchased in the past, even using a new service.

There are some exceptions to CASL, such as messages that are “urgent” or previously opted into or from a charity.

Violators of CASL can face penalties of up to $1 million for individuals and $10 million for businesses.

What are the SMS Marketing Laws for Other Countries?

Communication transcends national boundaries. However, if you’re launching an international SMS campaign, there are a few things you should keep in mind and be aware of in each nation.

There are numerous habits, rules, and alternatives throughout the world, which all apply to text messaging. Do you want to target consumers, business partners, or outside workers in other countries? Then you must consider the following information, which we have compiled in detail for some nations.

SMS Marketing to Germany

Both alphanumeric (11 characters) and numerical sender IDs are acceptable in Germany. Shortcodes like sender name are regularly not delivered correctly, resulting in a significant drop in campaign success. This “freedom of choice” isn’t standard worldwide; it may come as a surprise. In many countries, the sender’s registration is also necessary to view the message.

It would be best to stick to German-language messages since they are more trustworthy. The recipient often disregards English SMS or incorrect translations.

A personalized greeting also enhances consumer loyalty and increases the German’s security. They may now assume that the message is from someone who knows them. You can rapidly, securely, and successfully customize bulk SMS with a professional gateway.

SMS Marketing to France

Under specific circumstances, any sender ID may be utilized in France based on your project’s demands.

For Two-Way-Messaging, keep in mind that French long virtual numbers’ outgoing messages are limited to one SMS every two seconds.

To avoid being filtered, your marketing content must include “STOP au 36179” at the end of the message. This opt-out functionality give recipients a chance to unsubscribe from your contact list at any time. They also require an opt-out for any marketing messages.

Even if you send an international SMS to France, it’s still necessary to translate it into French. The reason is that many French people despise getting messages in any language other than French.

SMS Marketing to China

Due to a slew of checks, it’s tough to launch SMS advertisements in this large and rapidly expanding market for mobile messaging. Cheap methods are sometimes rejected, sender IDs blocked, and content prohibited.

The Chinese government closely monitors all digital communications. Regulations for text marketing are published and regularly updated by the Cyberspace Administration of China (CAC). In March 2016, for example, a new set of rules banned commercial SMS promotions that offered free or discounted items.

There are still ways to successfully reach customers in mainland China when you’re doing business there.

Non-personalized advertising texts are allowed, but only if the recipient has previously consented to receive them. Consent must be in Chinese (eventually via an SMS or voice message endorsing your commercial offer). If you want to send promotional text messages to any personal cell phone number, you’ll need written certification for this consent.

Mobile phone subscribers in China don’t need to pay extra fees for receiving text messages, but they may still have opted into your marketing campaign. At the end of SMS advertisements, many look for their cell phone provider’s details, like name and price plan.

SMS Marketing to India

India is an enormous international market that offers excellent opportunities for SMS marketing. However, there are also some things to keep in mind when sending text messages here.

The country’s Telecom Regulatory Authority (TRAI) released guidelines for commercial SMS in 2007 and updated them in 2012. The authority has repeatedly made it clear that all text advertisements must include an opt-out mechanism.

Furthermore, India’s TRAI sets a maximum number of text promotions sent to anyone mobile phone subscriber. Currently, that limit is set at 3,850 SMS per subscriber and calendar year (January through December).

All messages sent more than six times to the same number within one hour will be stopped by spam filters. On the other hand, recipients can only receive up to 200 SMS per day via incoming streams.

In principle, the government has banned political messages to Jammu and Kashmir’s networks.

SMS Marketing to South Africa

The Government Guidelines for the Promotion and Distribution of SMS messages to Individuals in South Africa suggests that bulk messages may be used when a “representative relationship” between the sender and receiver.

To comply with the rules, marketers must use real people’s names or company trademarks at the beginning of commercial text messages. That way, recipients know that your offer is genuine.

Furthermore, your contact details must be in end of each message. South Africans can reply or unsubscribe from commercial SMS by using “Reply” or “Stop” keywords.

SMS Marketing to Brazil

SMS campaigns in Brazil have always been challenging. The problem: Brazilian mobile phone providers block international SMS or don’t support them. There appears to be no routing, much less stability. Despite these issues, providers with direct connections and adaptive backups continue to provide the highest possible quality.

To ensure delivery and avoid filters, change sender IDs to a fix shortcode or a local number. The country also prohibit certain topics such as marketing, politics, and religion. It is best to avoid the use of Unicode and Binary forms.

SMS Marketing to Australia and New Zealand

When it comes to sending international SMS, Australia is a challenging market. Many barriers are pushing the cost-effective SS7 networks further away. For effective SMS delivery, you need a stable and direct API. There are no particular limitations on sender IDs, content, or encoding.

In New Zealand, on the other hand, you should change international sender IDs are frequently to ensure delivery. It is best if you register a long virtual number in advance for purely transactional programs with more than 25,000 SMS per year. Otherwise, use local shortcodes instead of IDs. They do not allow social invites in New Zealand.

What are the Consequences of Texting Customers without Permission?

Noncompliance with text marketing laws may result in financial penalties ranging from $500 to $1,500 per text message sent to each person who does not have SMS consent. It’s worth noting that tax-exempt nonprofit organizations are exempt from the opt-in and “do-not-call” provisions of the TCPA.

Also, breaking other laws and regulations reflects poorly on any business, but violating text message marketing rules can harm your brand’s reputation.

Breaking SMS marketing laws puts pressure on your business’s sense of morality when you’re marketing to people in such a more personal and direct way. With concerns about user privacy at an all-time high, irresponsible usage of phone numbers will undoubtedly cause anxiety among your consumers.

Is Text Spamming Illegal?

It is illegal for a company to send a Text Spam or Robo-dial a cell phone without permission, as required by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and FCC rules, using the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and FCC regulations.

The total number of spam messages not only ruins something as personal as a cell phone but also impacts everyone else by clogging up the system.

Although it isn’t too hard for companies to buy mailing lists from third parties claiming they have permissions, these companies may still be liable under the TCPA. A customer’s signature on a company’s mailing list isn’t enough to provide the proper permissions.

What should you Consider while Creating an SMS Marketing Campaign?

Following the Cellular Telephone Protection Act (CTPA) and other relevant SMS laws is essential. Still, it’s not the only thing you need to worry about when it comes to creating an SMS marketing campaign. Key things to consider include:

  • When asking for your customer’s phone number, make explicit calls to action. It should be obvious what they’re signing up for.
  • Use opt-in technologies when customers expressly consent to receive communications.
  • Confirm the opt-in for regular communications. “The confirmation message should contain: (1) the program name or product description; (2) customer care contact information, such as a toll-free number, 10-digit phone number, or HELP command instructions; (3) how to opt-out; (4) a statement that the messages are recurring and their frequency of delivery; (5) the price, frequency, and duration of the subscription; and (6) the date and time of the first message.”
  • Make sure your SMS messages are consistent with your other marketing materials.
  • Keep it simple for consumers to opt-out – and always respect their opt-outs.

The most crucial thing to remember about text marketing lists is that you should never rent, sell, or distribute them. Every company should have its list of people who’ve opted in for communications, which they can update at any time. Read more about our SMS Marketing Best Practices to learn how you can run an effective and compliant campaign worldwide!

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