Text Message Audit and Compliance Best Practices
Keeping good records isn't simply a matter of staying organized or tracking progress—as any business professional knows, it's also vital in case of an audit. But if your company engages with your customers or clients via text, tax audits aren't the only kind of audits you'll need to satisfy.
So what do you need to know about text message audits, and how can you ensure your business remains compliant with regulatory standards?
Text Message Audits: The Basics
Simply put, text message audits exist primarily to protect users from unethical behavior, whether that looks like an individual employee sending inappropriate messages to a customer or a company gathering and sharing client data without consent.
Of course, not all examples are so extreme. Often, regulations are simply overlooked by accident. For example, someone new to text message marketing might assume that if users have opted-in to marketing communications in the past, that includes texting as well. In fact, users must explicitly agree to receive communications by SMS prior to a business texting them.
To prevent such missteps, it's important to be aware of what organizations currently oversee telecommunication compliance and what regulations you'll need to follow.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is the main governing body for telecommunications in the United States.
The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) and the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) are trade associations that provide guidance for ensuring compliance when communicating wirelessly.
The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is the FCC's leading regulation regarding electronic communications. You can read the full text of the TCPA here, but the main points are as follows:
- Specific written consent to receive marketing telecommunications must be obtained from individuals prior to sending them texts.
- When opting-in, users must be provided with clear information about the content they can expect to receive and how frequently, along with a link to terms and conditions documentation.
- Texts must include information about the sender's identity as well as how users can opt-out. Businesses must allow users to opt-out via text.
- Businesses can only text subscribers between 8 AM and 9 PM.
The consequences of failing to satisfy TCPA regulations include fines ranging from $500 to $1,500 per non-compliant text. Because the fine is based on how many individuals receive a non-compliant text, rather than the number of separate messages composed, smaller businesses with smaller budgets may not be able to afford to incur fines on even a handful of messages. Meanwhile, larger businesses with massive subscriber lists could be looking at enormous costs if, for example, a mass non-compliant text was sent to thousands or even millions of users all at once.
Note: The regulatory requirements your business must meet are determined both by where you do business and with what carrier. Depending on these factors, additional rules and regulations may apply.
Best Practices for Ensuring Text Messaging Compliance
Proactive measures to prevent non-compliance are, obviously, preferable to discovering issues only when your business fails a text message audit. So what can you do now to ensure compliance before your next audit?
- Develop and execute a clear policy regarding electronic communications. This is ideal not only for ensuring regulatory compliance but also for creating and enforcing internal standards that will help create a consistent brand identity.
- Make it clear who will be monitoring compliance within your company. If your company is small, this might be you. Larger companies, on the other hand, might do well to create a specific job role or department that oversees compliance.
- Keep clear, organized records. The TCPA requires businesses to keep telecommunication records—including both text and multimedia message content—for a minimum of four years. The clearer your audit trail and the more accessible your data is, the better.
- Provide regular training and educational materials around compliance and recordkeeping. Keeping compliance top-of-mind helps prevent many unintended oversights and missteps.
- Map user consent to specific marketing content. Targeted marketing isn't just more effective, it's also helpful in ensuring compliance with the TCPA's rule that you must clarify the type of content you'll be sharing when a new subscriber opts-in.
One more thing to consider: rules change. As texting becomes more prevalent in marketing, the regulations governing telecommunications will likely continue to evolve over time. For this reason, it's vital to ensure your own business stays abreast of these changes and can implement corresponding internal shifts accordingly.
Choosing an SMS Platform that Facilitates Compliance
With such detailed regulations to contend with and the potential for change at any time, one of the best ways to ensure your business remains compliant is to choose your text marketing platform and provider with care.
The right vendor will be able to leverage their experience and expertise to help you ensure compliance at all times, while the right platform will make it easy to keep, organize, and access your texts when the time comes for a text message audit. Your platform of choice, meanwhile, should prevent user accounts from deleting records to help maintain a legally compliant audit trail. It should also be easy to export data to any CRM or POS software for ease of sharing and retrieval.
With a robust, user-friendly platform and reliable support from industry experts, you'll be in an excellent position to maintain compliance—not only for the sake of meeting regulatory standards, but also to protect your customers' and clients' best interests.
At NorthText, our text marketing experts are here to help you and your team prepare for text message audits by ensuring compliance across all SMS and MMS communications. Our platform simplifies recordkeeping by automatically archiving messages and providing platform-agnostic export functionality. To learn more, contact us or call or text us at (312) 869-9070.