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How are companies sending all those SMS messages illegally?

Last month the Information Commissioner issued enforcement notices to two companies that violated regulations by sending marketing text messages to people who had not agreed to receive them.

Help Direct UK sent SMS messages regarding people’s pension values. The text implied that by replying, people would get help in recovering money lost over the last few years. An investigation into the 659 complaints received revealed the company had sent 187,960 SMS messages over nine months covering a variety of financial topics.

The other company, Sweet Media Ltd, sent 4.5 million marketing messages over a period of 8 months. The ICO received 796 complaints before issuing the warning. The details of the messages are not mentioned in the enforcement notice, but Sweet Media is a Lead Generation company according to the Information Commissioner Office (ICO).

How can these companies send so many SMS messages without prior permission? Well, they generally buy lists of mobile numbers. Even though regulations have changed so you aren’t supposed to send email or text messages (or any “electronic communication”) to those who haven’t asked for them, there are still companies out there selling the lists. Those that buy them are either unaware of the rules, or don’t care about them.

So while it might be tempting for you to buy a list of mobile numbers to get your SMS marketing campaigns started, don’t do it.

The first good reason not to do that is you’ll be added to the list of companies receiving enforcement notices. That’s because when you send marketing texts to people who didn’t ask to receive them, they will complain to the ICO. The investigation will then result in a notice to you to stop sending text messages to people without permission. If you want to know more about the regulations, you can find them on the ICO website.

The second good reason is that it just isn’t good marketing. One of the huge benefits of SMS marketing is that you have a fairly captive, and interested, audience after they choose to opt in to your offers. Unlike email, with low open and conversion rates, SMS isn’t about having the biggest list. It’s about having people choose to receive your messages, which means they will be more interested in your offers than a bunch of random people. In the end, you send less messages, therefore spend less money, and have a higher ROI because your offers are exactly what your list members signed up to receive.

If you have questions about how to grow your list legally, just give us a call or grab us in our live chat. We’re happy to help you build a list that fits your business, and keeps you out of trouble.

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