TCPA & FCC Regulations, Rules, Penalties And Examples Regarding TEXT MESSAGEs & Privacy
We all know it’s illegal in most states to text and drive. We also know that effective text messaging increases your sales and promotes customer loyalty. What many auto dealers may not know, however, is there are laws enforced by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) that regulate how you send text messages to customers.
Penalties can range between $500 to $1500 for EACH text message found in violation.
In addition, the wireless trade association CTIA as well as individual mobile carriers maintain their own set of rules; violations can result in temporary or permanent suspension of your ability to run a text messaging campaign.
Here’s what you need to know to ensure your text messaging satisfies the letter of the law.
Opt-In/Opt-Out - It’s Not Like Email
Regulation of text messaging is rooted in legislation called the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) of 1991. That’s right, a law that was passed before hardly anyone had cell phones and text messaging. The original intent was to protect consumers from automated telemarketing calls. The idea was then applied to email and subsequently text messaging to prevent unsolicited marketing messages.
There’s an important difference between marketing emails and marketing text messages. You can send unsolicited bulk email, more popularly known as spam, without consumer consent, as long as you provide the ability to opt-out of future mailings. Similarly, you can ask consumers to opt-in to receive marketing emails.
Text messaging is different from emails for three reasons:
- Consumers pay to receive text messages.
- Text messages are sent to a personal device (cell phone), unlike a device-independent email account.
- Text messages are primarily sent over a cellular phone network, which is a regulated service, unlike email send primarily via the unregulated Internet; in this respect, unsolicited text messages are treated the same as unsolicited robocalling.
Which brings us to a term you may have heard, but is widely misunderstood.
What’s a Double Opt-In?
A double opt-in is a way for a customer to provide unambiguous written consent to receive text messages from you. “Unambiguous” is the key term here. Legally, you have to demonstrate that consent is provided by the owner of the mobile device whose number will receive your text messages. A paper or web form does not provide unambiguous consent because it doesn’t demonstrate the person signing the form actually owns the mobile device and its associated phone number.
The double opt-in provides legal assurance the owner of the mobile device you are text messaging provided consent. As the name implies, there are two steps to the double opt-in:
- Obtain permission from the customer for you to send a text message. This could be a paper form, a web form or a verbal consent if the conversation is being recorded.
- Send a customer a request to start receiving marketing text messages. Typically, the customer need only reply with either Y or N.
Once you have unambiguous consent from the owner of the mobile device to receive text messaging from you, there’s an additional step, send a message indicating:
- Confirm the customer has agreed to receive text messages from you.
- Standard data and cell carrier rates may apply to the receipt as well as replies to these messages.
- Provide options to select the frequency of text messaging (e.g., weekly, monthly, no more than five messages per month).
- Explain how to stop text messaging at any future time.
- Define the type of messages the customer is consenting to receive, transactional or marketing, or both. This requires some further explanation.
Difference Between Transactional & Marketing Messaging
Transactional messages are also called “informational” because that’s all they do; offer information. An example is “Our records show you are due for your 10,000-mile check-up. Please schedule an appointment at your earliest convenience.” Another is, “Your repairs are completed. You can pick up your vehicle any time after 3 pm.”
A marketing message, on the other hand, clearly is designed to promote something. “New models are in. Reserve your new car today and get $500 off MRSP” or “Isn’t it time to trade in your old car for a new vehicle equipped with the latest safety technologies?”
There are grey areas as well where a transactional message could arguably have a marketing message. Examples are “Happy birthday, come into the dealership today and receive a free car wash” or “Your car is due for service. Receive $15 off if you schedule today.”
Protect Personal Information
TEXT2DRIVE™ is the only text-messaging platform that provides auto dealers complete privacy protection. The cell phone numbers of your employees as well as any of their personal data are never seen by customers. You and your employees can be confident that the only thing customers can access is their own information, not that of your employees or your dealership.
Let Us Do the Driving
If you’re thinking, “Do I need a lawyer to make sure I’m not doing anything illegal,” the answer is no. You don’t need to hire a lawyer to handle this.
You do need a software service led and co-founded by an experienced trial attorney, who has the compliance knowledge and legal experience auto dealers trust to effectively tap into a mobile audience and promote brand loyalty and increase profitability.
The TEXT2DRIVE™ text messaging platform is a Software as a Service (SaaS) that meets all FCC and TCPA regulations, developed expressly for the business needs of auto dealerships. We provide the technical and legal expertise, so you can confidently focus on what you do best, selling cars and servicing customers.
Key benefits of TEXT2DRIVE™ include:
- Grow your marketing database with customer opt-ins to receive your text messages
- Offer mobile coupons that are green (no paper is used) and save you green (less expensive than paper mailings)
- Higher open and redemption rates
- Ability to target offers to customer profile
- Reach a mobile audience the way it prefers to be reached
- Increase brand loyalty
- Highly secure