Sending a text message has become as commonplace as a phone call used to be, whether for personal or business reasons. From simple information requests to confirmations of financial transactions worth millions of dollars, tons of business activities take place via text message on a daily basis. While this undoubtedly makes life easier for employees and clients alike, the use of text messages for business purposes can be a compliance nightmare.
Organizations across industries, especially highly-regulated industries such as finance and healthcare, are required to monitor and retain business-related communications including those that take place via SMS. For this reason, companies must have mobile communication policies and other safeguards in place to ensure that when text messaging is used by their employees, it is done in a fully compliant way.
This blog will explore the relevant regulations that companies are bound by as well as practical steps they can take to allow their employees and clients to use text messaging while still maintaining compliance.
The Regulatory Landscape for Text Messaging
As the reliance on text messages continues to grow, it brings with it a set of challenges and responsibilities, chief among them being compliance. Companies must protect the security of confidential information in texts while also following regulations around text message monitoring and other restrictions. Following is an overview of the global regulatory landscape surrounding text messaging, including a description of the key regulations that govern this space.
The regulatory framework surrounding compliance for text messaging is multifaceted, encompassing laws that focus on different aspects of communication. We can broadly categorize these regulations into four key areas: laws regarding message content, laws regarding message delivery, laws regarding privacy and security, and industry-specific rules.
Laws Regarding Message Content
United States: CAN-SPAM Act
The CAN-SPAM Act was passed to prevent companies from sending unwanted “spam” messages to recipients. The Act requires that all commercial electronic messages, including text messages, clearly identify the sender and provide accurate information about the source of the message. It also requires that organizations provide a clear option for recipients to opt out of receiving any future messages. These requests must be honored promptly.
European Union: General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
The GDPR, designed to protect the privacy of EU citizens, is very strict in its regulations which apply to text messages along with all other forms of communication. The legislation requires the obtainment of explicit and informed consent before using individuals’ contact information to send them any electronic communication including SMS. In addition, all individuals have the right to request that an organization remove or erase their personal data from their records and refrain from contacting them. Organizations must comply with these types of requests.
Laws Regarding Message Delivery
United States: Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)
In the US, companies bound by the TCPA are not allowed to send marketing messages without first obtaining written consent from individuals that they are open to receive such messages. In addition, text messages must contain a clear and easy-to-use opt-out mechanism so that people can unsubscribe from future messages easily should they choose to do so.
Canada: Anti-Spam Legislation (CASL)
Similar to the US laws, Canadian anti-spam rules require companies to also acquire explicit consent before sending any text messages for promotional or advertising purposes. When text messages are sent, they must clearly identify the sender and provide accurate contact information as well as an opt-out mechanism.
Laws Regarding Privacy and Security
European Union: General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR)
Among its many clauses, the GDPR requires companies to implement strong data protection measures whenever they process or store personal data. As part of this requirement, companies must ensure the security and confidentiality of all personal data, including when adhering to other message retention regulations.
India: Telecom Commercial Communications Customer Preference Regulations (TCCCPR)
The TCCCPR protects the privacy of Indian individuals when it comes to unsolicited communication from commercial entities for marketing or other purposes. Organizations need to adhere to the privacy measures laid out in the regulations whenever they send any commercial communications.
Different countries have their own regulations for those organizations in the healthcare industry. In the US, for example, healthcare organizations are bound by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) which governs the secure transmission and storage of private patient information sent via text message.
Like healthcare, the financial industry worldwide is heavily regulated in many areas. In the US, the sector must adhere to regulations including the Dodd-Frank Act and the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, each of which contain clauses that are designed to protect the confidentiality and security of financial information sent via text message.
What Does This All Mean for Us? Best Practices For Sending SMSs
While there are a lot of regulations to keep track of depending on what industry and geographic location an organization is located in, there are certain best practices to keep in mind that will ensure compliance for text messages.
These best practices include:
- Obtain Consent – Never send any SMS messages, especially for marketing purposes, without first seeking permission. Such permission can be obtained through opt-in mechanisms on websites or other user agreements.
- Identify Sender – Rather than keeping sender information anonymous, clearly communicate the sender’s identity in the text message. This serves to build trust with recipients while also helping them distinguish legitimate messages from spam and other junk messages they receive.
- Provide Value – Make sure message content adds value to the recipient. Whether the text message includes a promotional offer, important updates, or other information, it should always be relevant and beneficial.
- Keep it Short – Some SMS providers have character limits, and people are much more likely to read messages that are succinct, clear and to the point.
- Timing Matters – Consider recipients’ time zones and avoid sending messages in the middle of the night or at other inappropriate or inconvenient hours.
- Personalization – Whenever possible, personalize text messages by addressing recipients by name and/or tailoring the content based on their known preferences or previous interactions.
- Offer Opt-Out – Every SMS should include instructions for opting out should recipients decide they no longer want to receive messages from the organization. These preferences should be honored right away with phone numbers removed from messaging lists if the recipients unsubscribe.
- Keep it Secure – Security measures must be put in place in order to protect sensitive or personal information transmitted via SMS. Make sure that secure connections are used and that encryption and data breach protocols are in place to safeguard data.
- Regulation Compliance – Stay up-to-date and informed about all relevant regulations such as anti-spam and data protection laws. This will help avoid legal issues as well as build trust with recipients.
- Test and Optimize – Don’t assume that you have all the answers – conduct A/B testing to understand what types of messages resonate best with your audience. Use metrics like open rates and conversion rates to analyze and optimize SMS strategies.
Technology Solutions for Compliance
From obtaining consent to monitoring message delivery and securing sensitive data, innovative solutions have emerged to streamline and fortify communication compliance efforts. Following are just some of the tools that companies can use to implement their own mobile communication policy and ensure compliance:
- Consent Management Systems – These systems can be used to collect, record and manage user consent for all SMS communications, facilitating the creation of clear opt-in and opt-out processes and ensuring full adherence to regulatory requirements.
- Secure Messaging Platforms – Such platforms incorporate encryption protocols that safeguard the confidentiality and integrity of SMS content. They also provide a secure channel for the transmission of sensitive or private information in line with data privacy regulations.
- CRM Integration – Many CRMs can integrate with SMS platforms to enhance personalization and better customize messages based on prior customer actions. This integration can also enable businesses to maintain accurate records while delivering more targeted and relevant content.
- Analytics and Reporting Tools – Tools abound that provide insights into a range of metrics such as open rates, click-through rates and more, allowing businesses to assess the effectiveness of SMS strategies and adjust as needed.
- Text Message Filtering Services – These services can filter out potentially non-compliant messages using advanced algorithms, ensuring full compliance with anti-spam regulations.
- Opt-Out Management Systems – Opt-out management systems can streamline the opting-out process by automatically updating contact lists to ensure that anyone who opts out is immediately removed from any future SMS communications.
- Regulatory Compliance APIs – By integrating regulatory compliance APIs, companies can remain updated on changes in regulations. These APIs provide real-time information, ensuring that organizations can adapt quickly as regulations and legal obligations change.
- Real-time Reporting Dashboards – Real-time dashboards showing a full overview of SMS campaign performance along with compliance status can help facilitate better and faster decision-making.
- Automated Compliance Reporting – Companies are required to submit periodic compliance reports to various regulatory authorities, and using an automated reporting system ensures accuracy while also providing a more efficient way to produce the reports.
- Anomaly Detection – Machine learning and AI algorithms can be used to detect any unusual behavior or potential compliance breaches so that proactive steps can be taken to rectify issues before they escalate.
Confidence Starts with Choosing the Right Partners
Text message compliance is a complex but essential task for organizations. It requires a delicate balance between respecting user privacy and adhering to legal and regulatory requirements. Especially as employees often use personal devices for business purposes, it’s important to differentiate between personal vs. corporate messages and ensure that the right balance can be found. Fortunately, LeapXpert can help you get that balance.
The LeapXpert Communications Platform offers full text message integration, regardless of the channel, and maintains a complete record of all conversations between employees and customers to ensure that data privacy and governance standards are met. The user-friendly dashboard allows for easy auditing and reporting and displays the real-time status of all text messages, conversations, and data sent, as well as flagging when conditions and rules have been breached. Integrated with leading third-party archiving, surveillance, and analytics platforms, all text message records are securely stored and available alongside all the existing business data.
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