SMS Marketing – Steering Clear of Spamming and Harassment
Businesses large and small should take SMS direct marketing seriously. When it is executed properly, it is a hugely effective and successful means of building customer loyalty and improving sales. But in any industry, there are always rogue operators looking to make a fast buck and who choose to operate on the edge of the law or on the wrong side entirely. Even genuine and honest marketing companies can suffer damage to reputation or even break the law through simply lacking knowledge or not double-checking before releasing campaigns. While there are many areas of law covering all marketing mediums, the majority of complaints involving direct marketing via SMS messaging are about spam messages and harassment. So what are the definitions of spamming and harassment, what is the current UK law and how can mistakes be avoided?
Hands up if you have ever had an unsolicited text about PPI or your ‘recent car accident’ from a company you have never heard of or agreed to deal with? Did you respond? Not likely. The majority of recipients are irritated by such messages and immediately distrust the companies behind them. These are spam messages and they often flout the laws regarding how businesses can use customer personal data and ignore the rules regarding obtaining customer consent for such marketing. Not to mention they alienate many potential customers from the start which is definitely not in any handbook for good marketing practice.
In the UK, there are at least two separate pieces of legislation which cover this area – the Data Protection Act 1998 which is there to ensure personal details are processed fairly, and the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations 2003 which require consent to be given freely and specifically. These laws are enforced by an independent body called the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).
In one month alone, March 2017, the ICO issued fines totalling £600,000 to several companies for sending spam texts, emails and phone calls. This included one Welsh business which was fined £140,000 for sending 4.4 million marketing text messages for which they did not have the consent of the recipients. The firm’s defence argument was that everyone’s details had been taken from their competition website and that every person was required to agree to marketing as part of the conditions for entering the competitions. The ICO ruled that this was not proper consent.
For some examples of just how seriously the issue is taken and the true cost to companies who get it wrong, have a browse through the reports available on the ICO’s website.
So what is proper consent in electronic marketing? Unfortunately, there is not a definitive or quick answer as that would be somewhat oversimplifying a detailed legal framework but there are some key general points to be aware of:
1.You must not send electronic mail marketing to individuals unless:
- they have specifically consented to receive electronic marketing mail from you or
- they are an existing customer who has bought from you before (or negotiated to buy) a similar product in the past and you have given them a simple way to opt out when you first collected their details and in every message since.
2. You must be clear and honest about your identity and provide a valid contact address to enable customers to opt out or unsubscribe.
3. If someone opts out then you must stop sending all forms of electronic marketing to them and clearly confirm to them that you have received their instructions.
If customers become annoyed about the volume of marketing texts they receive or the inconvenient times that they are being received, they will often consider this as harassment regardless of the legal definition. If customers simply feel harassed then they will be turned right off your brand. Not only will this drive customers away but when people perceive they have been treated wrongly, they often tell others. There used to be an old adage that a satisfied customer will tell one person about their experience but a dissatisfied customer will tell ten people. In the modern day era of the internet and social media, a dissatisfied person can share their experience with millions incredibly fast and you are likely to have seen examples where this has had lasting negative effects on company reputations and even caused businesses to go under. Think of the fallout from the recent scandal involving an American airline.
Actual harassment is enforced by the police under legislation such as the Malicious Communications Act 1998, where an offence could be committed if anyone sends or causes to be sent electronic communications which are either indecent, grossly offensive, threatening or contain false information (or believed to be false by the sender), and the sender intended to cause distress or anxiety to the recipient through these actions. Whilst this is rarely an issue for most business to consumer communications, there have been reports of some unscrupulous organisations sending messages that could be construed as threatening to customers.
Usually, ‘bombardment’ of marketing text messages to an individual is unrequested and goes hand in hand with spamming, so the situation is best dealt with by anti-spamming legislation as discussed above. Despite common belief, there is also no current law in the UK to govern the times that marketing calls or messages can be made or sent (Don’t get confused with the American rules that state telemarketers must not make contact between 9pm and 8am, it only applies in the US!). Good marketing practice and common sense should prevail; you might not be breaking the law, but contact your audience too much or at inappropriate times and it could seriously harm your brand reputation and ultimately your profits.
The ICO publish detailed information and guidance for businesses as well as enforcement action they have taken on their website https://ico.org.uk.
At Fastsms, we provide one of the UK’s leading bulk business SMS platforms with unbeatable prices and customer service. Our system allows SMS messages to be sent via email, our versatile cloud-based platform and through API integration with many market standard CRM systems. Whatever the size and nature of your business, our SMS Marketing solutions can help you grow.
Call us now on 0800 954 5305 and we will be happy to connect you with an expert in your sector.
ICO, the Information Commissioner's Office, has recently imposed a huge fine on direct marketing company Help Direct UK for sending illegal SMS messages.
Enterprises are large companies. Sometimes that means they think they should be able to do everything themselves. But when it comes to SMS messaging, building an in-house gateway is more difficult than you might think. Read why finding a good SMS service provider is a better option.
All businesses are subject to the law when it comes to advertising and marketing. Companies cannot make false claims or mislead consumers via advertising materials, for example. Designed to protect consumers and commercial clients, the law regulates most forms of marketing in some way. With companies carrying out various forms of marketing activity, it can be difficult to keep on top of the relevant laws and guidelines. By working with SMS marketing experts, however, you can ensure that your marketing campaigns are fully compliant with the necessary laws and that you’re able to connect with your target audience lawfully and effectively.
As an entrepreneur, it is notoriously difficult to get your message out there. It's even harder to get seen and heard in a meaningful way that doesn't offend people. Email marketing has been the darling of entrepreneurs for years, but it's time for something new. Something that supersedes the email and circumvents the spam folder.
As with anything in business, there are rules and regulations that need to be followed. Some of the key ones are laid out in the UK Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulation (PECR) - and while this can seem like a daunting document at first, it doesn't need to be...
Four years ago, reputable commentators in The Guardian were wondering if SMS - short message service or text messaging - had peaked in performance after a two-decade exponential rise. Here we look at the evidence which shows that SMS is not only going strong, but continuing to stand out as an essential marketing channel for many businesses.
One of the major metrics in SMS marketing is how many people opt in to receive your messages. But there’s a flip side to that metric: how many people opt out. In the ideal world, no one would ever leave your list and instead continue to make purchases or support your organisation for as long as you decide to message them.
Need to know all about mobile marketing with SMS messaging? We’ve pulled together the top ten blog posts that tell you everything you need to know. The list starts with the basics and goes through analysing the success of your campaign.
SMS spam is a problem worldwide. But in the UK, we’re less likely to get it than many other countries. Find out why that is, see some examples, and how you can do your part to keep your SMS messages free of spam.