If you’ve ever considered a telemarketing or SMS marketing strategy for your business, you probably know you can’t send messages to anyone at any time—and it’s not just a matter of ethics. TCPA compliance is required by law.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) was created in 1991 to prevent intrusive telemarketing calls—including those that are auto-dialed or have pre-recorded voice messages—from reaching private phone lines. Since then, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has extended the law to regulate communication channels like text messages, too.

For marketers, the TCPA puts a spotlight on one overarching fact: Phone numbers are personal information that shouldn’t be taken lightly. To give your leads and customers the best experience possible, you need to be strategic while following TCPA guidelines.

To ensure you understand the rules, we’ll break down the most important elements of TCPA compliance and offer a checklist that makes it easy to follow.

What is TCPA compliance?

TCPA compliance simply means to abide by TCPA regulations on telemarketing calls, as well as faxes and text messages with a commercial purpose.

Telemarketing calls are perhaps the most strictly regulated form of communication under the TCPA. The law requires you to receive prior written express consent—usually in the form of a signed agreement—before you can make either of the following types of calls:

  • Pre-recorded messages: These include messages recorded by humans, as well as the artificial voice messages you often hear on robocalls.
  • Autodialer calls: These include any calls made on an automatic telephone dialing system (ATDS), in which numbers are stored and dialed without any human action.

Your telemarketing calls cannot hide your caller ID information, nor can they be made to users on the National Do Not Call Registry (DNC Registry).

Still, not all phone calls are considered telemarketing calls. Your business can take advantage of manual phone calls. For example, targeted cold calling is TCPA compliant, as long as it abides by rules and regulations included in the checklist below.

TCPA compliance for text messages

Due to the many limits placed on telephone solicitations, as well as the fact that consumers are shifting toward greater text message use, many companies are now turning toward SMS messaging first.

TCPA compliance is much easier when it comes to texts. Instead of requiring written consent, the FCC only requires your business to acquire basic prior express consent before sending SMS messages—and this consent is easy to obtain. Under the TCPA, your leads simply need to knowingly offer their number to your company, perhaps by filling in a form at a doctor’s office or by entering their number on a web chat tool.

Of course, consumers must be able to revoke their consent at any time (often by texting back “STOP”), in the same way that shoppers always have the option to unsubscribe from promotional emails.

TCPA compliance for SMS messages also requires that you send only messages related to what the consumer consented to. For example, if a consumer opts into hair appointment reminders at a salon, they shouldn’t be receiving promotional texts about discounts or new services.

Why TCPA compliance matters

TCPA compliance is an ethical must for every business. Contacting consumers through their mobile phones is a relatively personal form of communication, which means using telephone numbers with no regard for a customer’s privacy can feel intrusive over time.

When you want to build and maintain customer satisfaction, you must give your leads and current buyers the respect they deserve. Sending only the most relevant messages to willing consumers can even help you increase customer loyalty over time. 

It’s also costly to ignore the Telephone Consumer Protection Act. For every violation, you may be charged as much as $16,000. Plus, each of the individual people who you contact can claim up to $500 for every violating call, text, fax, or voice message. If the federal courts believe your violation was done on purpose, this claim can rise to $1,500 per message.

By fully understanding TCPA compliance, you can develop excellent text messaging or calling campaigns that won’t put your company at risk for fines or other penalties.

TCPA compliance checklist

Actively committing to TCPA compliance is the best way to create a great customer experience while avoiding expensive fines and class action TCPA lawsuits. However, the TCPA can be hard to follow, even if you have good intentions.

Below are some essential actions you must take to remain compliant with the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

  1. Only contact consumers during approved times. Businesses cannot contact shoppers on their cell phones or landlines for commercial purposes between 9 p.m. and 8 a.m. (local time).
  2. Avoid consumers on the DNC Registry. For telemarketers, it’s required to check their current call lists against the national DNC list every 31 days.
  3. Get consent. Have proof of prior express consent, or get express written consent in the case of automated telephone calls or pre-recorded telemarketing messages.
  4. Allow consumers to opt out. Even if a consumer has given prior consent, they must have an opt-out option. Telemarketers are actually required to keep a company-specific “do not call” list that’s up-to-date.
  5. Abide by maximum character counts. The content of your text messages must include no more than 160 characters, including spaces and punctuation. This character count may go down to 70 when texting in character-based languages, such as Chinese or Japanese.
  6. Train your team. While this isn’t a requirement from the FCC, it’s highly recommended to keep your team members up-to-date on regulations, so they never unintentionally cause a violation.

As you can see, every step is designed to keep unsolicited advertisements to a minimum. These steps will also encourage you to send your leads and customers the most relevant information at the right times.

SMS payments under the TCPA

While the TCPA may regulate commercial activities, it by no means exists to prevent you from adapting to the modern business landscape. As your competitors and consumers shift toward smartphone-based strategies—including text message payments—there’s no reason you can’t do so, too.

Plenty of businesses are starting to implement SMS payments into their checkout process, allowing buyers to pay via text—and it’s easy to do so without breaking TCPA regulations. 

By following the TCPA compliance checklist above, as you would for any text messages, you can offer your customers a convenient user experience that inspires them to complete the buyer’s journey.

Build customer satisfaction with Podium

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act regulates how you implement telemarketing, SMS messaging, and more phone-based communications into your strategy. However, it isn’t necessarily a limitation. 

Staying TCPA compliant can help you give your consumers the experience they want. When they only receive the most relevant messages at convenient times, they’re more likely to respond and become loyal patrons.

Nothing is stopping you from continually innovating under the TCPA, either. You can brainstorm and implement creative messages, as well as processes like SMS payments, that make the customer experience even better. 

With Podium Payments, an SMS payment solution, you can start closing deals and building relationships without worrying about breaking your TCPA compliance.

Matt Boyce
Matt Boyce Head of SMB Marketing

Matt Boyce is a marketing and business professional at Podium, the premiere messaging platform that connects local businesses with their customers.

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