Unsolicited SMS Messages Lead to Trouble…Even for Trump
Late last month reports surfaced that the Trump US presidential campaign had sent unsolicited SMS messages to voters in the Chicago area. One man, Joshua Thorne, and his lawyers have filed a class-action lawsuit alleging the Trump Campaign violated the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA, the US equivalent of the PECR).
In the US, the electronic communications laws are stricter than the UK. The TCPA requires a specific opt in for every campaign. This means you cannot send any SMS messages to a person without their explicit consent to do so.
Thorne insists he never gave his mobile number to the Trump campaign and he never agreed to have them send him information. The legal documents of the case say Trump’s campaign rented a shortcode from the SMS messaging service Tatango, who provided them with documents on how to be compliant with the TCPA. According to an article in the Chicago Tribune, the messages were sent to “thousands of wireless telephone numbers or randomly generated phone numbers using a bulk messaging software by the company Tatango Inc.”
It’s not clear from the article if the lawsuit claims Tatango has any responsibility for the messages or not. I couldn’t verify if Tatango’s software actually generates random numbers as one of the articles asserts. But they clearly define an anti-spam policy stating “Tatango has a zero-tolerance policy for SMS spam, meaning that subscribers will only receive SMS messages from campaigns that they have opted into.” My take is that if the Trump campaign used random numbers, they likely got them from somewhere else. Likely they used the same “robocall” techniques they have for making automated voice calls to residents. Or they used phone numbers from donor information, possibly without getting express permission to send SMS messages. Either way, they would be in violation of the TCPA.
While Thorne filed a civil lawsuit and the outcome is unknown at this point, the FTC and FCC (US equivalents of the ICO) can still do their own investigation. If they find that the TCPA was violated they can issue a fine of up to $1,500 per message (~£1030).
The lawsuit assumes others had the same experience and that the court will assign a “class action” status which covers anyone who received an unsolicited message from Trump. They are suing for “statutory damages to all class members; to stop the text messages to wireless phones through the use of an automatic telephone dialing system without prior express consent; reasonable attorneys’ fees and costs; and any other relief the court deems reasonable and just.”
The UK law
The PECR sets out the regulations for electronic communications in the UK. You are allowed to contact someone if they are already a customer, or have made an enquiry. However, you can only send messages that relate to their prior purchase or contact.
For example, if you’re a salesman who just sold a car to someone. You can contact them with information on car insurance or car-related topics. You can’t contact them about a great deal for a vacation in the Bahamas or movie tickets. If you want to send them other direct marketing messages, you’ll need to get them to opt in to receive them.
Besides staying compliant with the PECR, you don’t want to send unsolicited SMS messages anyway. One of the best things about SMS marketing is that the people who opt in are really interested in what you have to offer. The ROI is usually quite high because of this. It’s like having a willing partner in your business – you send things, they want things. Sending unsolicited SMS messages is just a waste of time and money because you have no idea if the people at the other end want what you are offering – in other words, you’re losing the advantage that SMS marketing offers in the first place.
If you have questions about using SMS marketing and staying compliant, download our special report, Mobile Marketing Guide. In it, you’ll find an overview of SMS marketing, best practices, and legal guidelines.
Over the last month or so I've signed up for quite a lot of webinars. I'm always trying to learn more about technology, marketing, best practices – you get the idea. So I've been excited to see many organisations offering SMS reminders for webinars. But there is one experience I had with an SMS reminder for a webinar that I simply had to share.
"UK B2C data for SMS marketing" - That was the search result headline I found while researching online. Interesting I thought. It must be relating to SMS marketing statistics for B2C (business to consumer) sales. Since I was searching for some updated information and studies about SMS I decided to click and read.
In last week’s blog I covered how the Trump campaign sent unsolicited SMS messages to voters. This week I’m stuck on the same topic, but from a totally different angle: what we can learn from that failure. Because honestly, their biggest issue might not be violating the law. It might be the people they have writing their SMS messages. It’s time to dissect the message that spawned the law suit, and learn what we can from it.
Mobile marketing offers an unprecedented access to your customers virtually any time, anywhere. This is particularly true for SMS marketing because it is “always on”. Customers don’t have to be surfing the web, or using an app to receive messages. Instead, they see the marketing messages right alongside ones from their friends and family.
In many of our previous posts, we have discussed the whys and hows of SMS marketing, listing the benefits, and the impacts on lead generation. There’s no doubt that by employing a marketing strategy that uses business SMS as a medium that your processes will become more efficient and your leads will become more targeted, meaning a better ROI. Here we will look at the best practices for SMS marketing to ensure your campaigns are offering the best for you and your users.
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.
Any UK business that collects, stores and uses other people’s personal data for purposes such as marketing and selling is subject to the rules of the Data Protection Act, and those using SMS marketing are no exception. Having a basic understanding of the DPA legislation and its main requirements is useful to maintain best practice in direct marketing such as SMS marketing and also helps to uphold your hard won customer trust - as well as avoid the potentially costly consequences of falling foul of the law. Read this article to learn how to avoid the simple pitfalls and get your SMS marketing campaign off to the right start.