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Can You Send Anyone a Text Message?

You’re anxious to get started using text messaging. After all, you’ve read how easy, effective and inexpensive it can be. Now you can just upload your email list and start sending away SMS text messages, right?

You probably could, but you really shouldn’t.

SMS messages are classified as email communications in the Privacy and Electronics Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003. That means text messaging is subject to the same opt in requirements as email. In other words,  you can only send to subscribers  who have given you their consent to receive the messages.

In some cases this may mean your business can send a text message to a customer without explicit permission if it relates to a specific enquiry they made. This is called a “soft opt in”. This can be perfectly legal in the strictest sense. But it may not make the best business sense.

The problem with soft opt ins is you don’t know if the customer wants to receive texts. Maybe they don’t like texting or reserve texting for just family and emergencies. Perhaps they are old fashioned and actually prefer a phone call instead.

Also you don’t know if the recipient wants to send text messages in reply. In many cases when someone responds to your text message they, not you, will be paying for the message. Some mobile users may not realise this and be quite angry at you for costing them money.

So how do you get started texting your customers? Here are a few options:

  1. Contact your list via email. Send them a quick note letting them know you’ve begun using text messaging. Inform them how to opt in to receive your texts. Make sure the opt in method is clear and easy for them to do.
  2. Send a single text message asking if they’d like to opt in to future text messages from you. Provide them a shortcode or number to reply to in order to opt in. Make sure you tell them they won’t get any more messages if they don’t reply. Always make it clear who is paying for the messages if they reply.
  3. If the customer has a profile on your website, ask them to provide their mobile number and check a box accepting text messages. If they ever want to stop the messages they can return to your website and uncheck the box. Make sure the process is as simple and clear as possible.

Not only will asking permission first ensure you’re in compliance with the law, it will garner trust from your customers. Whether they opt in to receive your messages or not, the good will your process created can only help your business in the future.

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