Text Messaging Laws by State
Before your small business implements an SMS campaign, get to know state and federal laws to ensure you’re following the appropriate rules and regulations.
If you’re a small business owner looking to experiment with SMS marketing, it’s crucial to familiarize yourself with the rules and regulations that govern telemarketing communications to avoid facing fines or legal trouble.
In our guide on text message marketing laws, we review some of the red tape around commercial texting to help ensure your SMS marketing strategy is compliant.
Text Message Marketing Laws
Before covering text message privacy laws about individual states, let’s discuss federal rules and guidelines that impact all states.
Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
The TCPA addresses unregulated and unsolicited telemarketing calls and messages. To comply, marketers must obtain consent before sending commercial text messages, disclose what the SMS communication entails, and offer a way for customers to unsubscribe. Under this act, sending a text message asking a customer to opt-in to your text program is illegal, as this is considered an unsolicited message.
The CAN-SPAM Act regulates commercial communications to protect consumers from unwanted messages sent to their mobile phones. Though this act was written before the rise of SMS messaging, marketers are encouraged to follow the guidelines for unsolicited emails. To ensure compliance, SMS marketers must receive permission before sending messages, are required to provide recipients with an opt-out method, and cannot send misleading statements with false or deceptive information.
Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) Guidelines
The CTIA trade organization oversees the CTIA Short Code Monitoring Handbook, providing a set of best practices for SMS marketers. In short, the guide offers tips on creating proper opt-in and opt-out methods, disclosing information about your text program, avoiding unsolicited messages, and ensuring your marketing content is appropriate. Although these voluntary guidelines are not laws, they align with state and federal rules to help keep your marketing strategies above board.
Text Message Laws by State
While all 50 states require SMS marketers to comply with federal legislation, the following are some examples of states that have passed additional rules and regulations that specifically address text marketing. But because this list doesn’t include every state’s laws, we recommend doing additional state-specific research before implementing your first SMS campaign.
In 2013, the Arizona governor signed House Bill 2312, a ban on spam text messages, which prevents SMS marketers from sending unsolicited ads via text messaging. The bill requires telemarketers to receive prior consent before sending automated text messages to mobile phones.
Furthermore, Arizona lawmakers are advancing House Bill 2498, which could allow text messaging to apply to Arizona’s Do-Not-Call registry.
In 2020, the Golden State enacted the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), which oversees consumer privacy and protections. Under the act, California customers have the right to request a report on the personal information a company has on them and a list of other companies it’s shared that data between.
To comply with the act, SMS marketers must inform California customers about the personal information they are collecting, provide an option to request data access, update privacy policies with California rights, and offer opt-out methods. Marketers must not send an opt-in request for at least 12 months if a customer opts out of the text messaging program.
In 2014, Connecticut passed a law making it illegal to send unsolicited text and media messages to Connecticut residents (regardless of whether it was auto-dialed or not). Just one text message sent without receiving expressed consent is subject to a $20,000 penalty.
Connecticut is the only state requiring express written consent to receive commercial messages. This law also prohibits SMS marketers from sending texts and media messages to customers listed on Connecticut’s Do Not Call registry.
Florida pioneered the way when it comes to text messaging laws by state. It recently amended its Telemarketing Act with CS/SB 1120, prohibiting telemarketers from sending text messages to Florida customers using automated technology unless they’ve received prior consent. Under this law, telemarketers cannot hide their identity, contact a customer more than three times within 24 hours, or send texts outside the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. And finally, text messaging applies to the state’s Do Not Call registry.
In 2011, the Indiana governor approved the House Enrolled Act 1273, which expanded current legislation prohibiting “Robo Calls” to include texts, multimedia messages, and all forms of cell phone communication to Indiana cell phone numbers. Also, if an Indiana resident’s phone number is listed on the state’s Do Not Call registry, telemarketers cannot send them unsolicited text messages.
New Jersey’s text message privacy law, A-617, requires companies to receive permission before sending texts to New Jersey residents, which could incur charges or impact their text allocations. SMS marketers must convey the specific number of messages sent and allow recipients to opt-out at any time.
As of 2022, the Oklahoma Telephone Solicitation Act prohibits SMS telemarketers from messaging an Oklahoma resident more than three times about the same subject within 24 hours. It also forbids companies from sending SMS texts after 8 p.m. and before 8 a.m. And like Florida’s bill, the Oklahoma act prevents companies from sending messages using automated systems without the customer's prior consent.
In 2020, the governor made several amendments to the Virginia Telephone Privacy Protection Act. For one, it expanded the definition of telephone solicitation calls to include text messages, and it now covers customers with Virginia area codes and those with non-Virginia area codes which reside in the state. SMS marketers must also clearly and accurately identify themselves in text message communication. And to top it off, the amendments also increased the damages associated with violations.
Under Washington’s Consumer Electronic Mail Act (CEMA), it’s illegal for marketers to send commercial text messages without prior permission.
According to Wisconsin law, if your phone number is listed on the Wisconsin No Call program, you are protected against unsolicited calls and texts.
SMS texting is a hot topic as more states focus on cracking down on unsolicited messages and prioritizing consumer privacy rights. If your small business is interested in SMS marketing, consult state and federal laws to ensure you comply with current rules and regulations.
Regardless of what state your business operates in, learn more about how to write an effective text marketing message in our open resources.
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Looking to boost your customer engagement rates? Then it might be time to implement an SMS marketing strategy. With a platform like EZ Texting, you can get more eyes on your content. Contact us today to learn more about how SMS marketing can enhance your small business marketing efforts!
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