The U.S. Text Messaging Laws: Know Them All

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Text messaging is one of the preferred business marketing tools used by retailers, entertainment properties, and media companies in the United States. And if you’re planning to use it in your marketing campaign, you should know more about text message laws.

Text messaging is one of the preferred business marketing tools used by retailers, entertainment properties, and media companies in the United States. And if you’re planning to use it in your marketing campaign, you should know more about text message laws.

Some interesting SMS marketing statistics in 2020 revealed that:

  • 68% of businesses use texting in communicating with customers and employees
  • 77% of consumers use texting over other messaging tools, making it an increasingly popular marketing tool for businesses
  • 88% of marketers surveyed admitted to not using a business texting software to text customers (which violates TCPA law)

Text messaging remains to be a highly preferred communication tool between businesses and consumers.

U.S. Text Messaging Regulatory Bodies

Consumer protection on commercial SMS messaging is the primary reason for the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) issuance of text message lawsCommercial messaging refers to the sending of marketing text messages to mobile phones.

The applicable laws that regulate SMS marketing in the U.S. are in the provisions of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the CAN-SPAM Act.

The FCC is the regulatory body that protects the integrity of all mobile communications, including texting.

The FTC (Federal Trade Commission) is the consumer protection agency of the United States. Its function is to ensure adherence of text marketers to proper rules and conduct of business.

Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) is a non-profit trade association created to establish mobile media guidelines and best sustainable growth practices.

CTIA – The Wireless Association is the trade group that regulates all SMS messaging in the U.S.  This industry group helps create legislation and enforce some regulations for telecommunications companies to follow.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act

In 1991, the United States Congress enacted the TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) to address the increasing number of telephone marketing calls. The Act prohibits telemarketing calls as well as using automatic telephone dialing systems. Also included in the restrictions are pre-recorded voice messages.   

In 2012, the revised TCPA rules required businesses or their marketers to:

  • Obtain express written prior consent from consumers before robocalling them
  • Not allow telemarketers to use “established business relationships” to avoid getting the consumer consent on their home phones
  • Require telemarketers to provide an opt-out mechanism that will let consumers tell the telemarketer to end the call

The most common way to obtain prior consent is to have your customer sign up for your text list on your web page or click an opt-in link.

How to be TCPA Compliant

To comply with TCPA rules:

  • Use Keyword texting. Customers will text a keyword from their cellphones to join the SMS database.
  • Fill out a paper form. Customers will fill out a form with a clear statement on agreeing to receive text messages from a business through their mobile phones.
  • Use an online form. The online form must state that the consumer agrees to receive text messages from the company.


The CAN-SPAM Act covers all commercial messages sent electronically with the primary purpose of commercial advertisement or promotion. The CAN-SPAM Act requires that all emails must comply with the law.  

The CAN-SPAM Act covers text message laws stipulating that: 

  • You are not allowed to use false or misleading header information. You must have the correct identity of the person receiving the message and the person or business who initiated the message.
  • You cannot use deceptive subject lines. The content of the message and the subject line must match.
  • You must indicate that the message is an advertisement.  
  • You must include your valid physical address. Recipients should know where to find your place of business. It can be a US Postal Service registered post office box, a private mailbox registered with a commercial mail receiving agency, or your current street address.
  • Your message must include an opt-out mechanism, with clear explanations on how the recipient can tell you to stop sending emails in the future. You must abide by and honor the opt-out requests by your customers and process them within ten business days, without charging a fee. Once a customer opts out, you cannot sell or transfer their email addresses except if making the transfer to a company you have hired to comply with the CAN-SPAM Act.
  • You must monitor your email marketing activities. Even if you have a third party handling your email marketing, you are under obligation to watch what they are doing on your behalf.

SMS Marketing Compliance Checklist

To ensure that your SMS marketing strategy does not violate the text message laws in the United States, take note of the following:

  • Obtain written consent as this is the most critical compliance step. The written permission in any form (online or paper forms, or shortcodes) must be clear, explicit, and transparent.
  • Send Opt-in confirmation. As soon as your subscribers agree to receive your SMS campaign, you should send them a confirmation with the relevant subscription information:

o   Purpose of campaign

o   Identity and location of your organization

o   Frequency of SMS messages the subscribers can expect from the campaign

o   Information about Opting-out

o   Terms and conditions

o   Privacy policy 

o   Keyword subscribers can text if they need information or assistance about the campaign

  • Mention that the message is an advertisement. Do not mislead or deceive.
  • Keep track of your SMS marketing campaign

Do not let your SMS marketing campaign go to waste. Optimize its benefits for your business by knowing and adhering to the text messaging laws

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