Messaging Requirements and Code of Conduct
The Code of Conduct contains five straightforward requirements for message senders:
- Only companies in good standing may engage in high-throughput traffic.
- The consumer must give appropriate consent for the given message type
- Consumer opt-in and opt-out must work correctly
- Phishing, spam, and unwanted illicit content is prohibited
- Creative methods to evade these requirements is prohibited
To protect the integrity of text messaging networks and services, including the business operations of legitimate service providers, message senders of high-throughput text messaging must pass a basic validation during onboarding with the service provider and maintain good standing.
The consumer must give the appropriate consent for the given message type.
Consumer opt-in and opt-out functionality is enforced at the network level via the STOP and UNSTOP keywords. This functionality cannot be disabled for service providers or message senders. Message senders have additional obligations for processing of opt-out messages that must be honored.
Message content that deceives or threatens consumers, including phishing, is not permitted. Even if a consumer consents to receive messages, the messages must not be deceptive; TCPA compliance alone does not satisfy this condition.
The spirit of these requirements is straightforward; to protect both consumers and networks. Message senders acting in bad faith to thwart or undermine the spirit of these requirements are addressed on a case-by-case basis.
Best Practices for Sending Messages
Consumers should always be given the choice to receive or block text messages from a speciﬁc message sender. This principle underpins the requirements for the opt-in and opt-out mechanisms. In addition, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) enforces rules under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) to protect consumers from unwanted calls or text messages. Businesses that send text messages to consumers should be aware of these rules. Violating the TCPA is a serious matter, with statutory damages of $500 to $1,500 per violation (text message sent).
The message sender must obtain proper consumer consent for each message sent. The type of consent that is required depends on the type of message content sent to the consumer. The table below includes the types of messaging content and the associated consent that is required. Consumers can revoke consent at any time and in any way. Consumer opt-out requests must be honored, whether they are made by phone call, email, or text.
Types of Messaging Content and Required Consent
|Conversational messaging is a back-and-forth conversation that takes place via text. If the consumer texts into the business ﬁrst and the business responds quickly with a single message, then it’s likely conversational. If the consumer initiates the conversation and the business simply responds, then no additional permission is required.||Informational messaging is when a consumer gives their phone number to a business and asks to be contacted in the future. Appointment reminders, welcome texts, and alerts fall into this category because the ﬁrst text sent by the business fulﬁlls the consumer’s request. A consumer should agree to receive texts when they give the business their mobile number.||Promotional messaging is when a message is sent that contains a sales or marketing promotion. Adding a call-to-action (such as a coupon code to an informational text) may place the message in the promotional category. Before a business sends promotional messages, the consumer must agree in writing to receive promotional texts. Businesses that already ask consumers to sign forms or submit contact information can add a ﬁeld to capture the consumer’s consent.|
If the consumer initiates the text message exchange and the business only responds to each consumer with relevant information, then no verbal or written permission is required.
The consumer should give permission before a business sends them a text message. Consumers can give permission over text, on a form or website, or verbally. Written permission also works.
EXPRESS WRITTEN CONSENT|
The consumer should give written permission before a business sends them a text message. Consumers can sign a form, or check a box, to allow promotional text messages. Participation in text promotions should never be a requirement.
Revoking Consent (opt-out)
Carriers require opt-out compliance by supporting the STOP keyword at the network level. This opt-out system is active by default across all accounts. A STOP request blocks all text message exchanges between an individual mobile number and a text-enabled business number. A consumer can opt back in at any time by replying with the keyword UNSTOP.
The best practice of notifying the consumer of their ability to opt-out from future messages from the message sender. This is especially important when sending informational or promotional messages. An example would be to include the sentence, “Reply STOP to unsubscribe” to the end of the initial message sent to the consumer. We recommend sending this communication on at least every 5th informational or promotional message for continued consumer awareness.
Opt-Out Keywords and Messages
A consumer can opt out of communication with any message sender on the network by texting the keyword “STOP” to the message sender’s phone number. The keyword is not case sensitive and triggers an opt-out only when sent as a single word with no punctuation or leading spaces (any trailing spaces are trimmed). If the consumer uses the opt-out keyword within a sentence, then an opt-out is not triggered.
- “Hey can you stop texting me?”
- “Stop it"
The opt-out conﬁrmation message returned to a consumer is generic and gives instructions on how to opt back into service again with the message sender’s phone number.
Opt-out Conﬁrmation Message
NETWORK MSG: You replied with the word "STOP" which blocks all texts sent from this number. Text back "UNSTOP" to receive messages again.
Opt-In Keywords and Messages
A consumer can opt back in at any time to receive messages by texting the keyword “UNSTOP” to a message sender’s phone number. The keyword is not case sensitive and triggers an opt-in only when sent as a single word, with no punctuation or leading spaces (any trailing spaces are trimmed). If the consumer uses the opt-in keyword within a sentence an opt-in is not triggered.
- “Hey can you enable me again?”
- “Unstop me!”
The message returned to a consumer is generic and informs the consumer they can start two-way texting with the message sender’s phone number again.
NETWORK MSG: You have replied "UNSTOP" and will begin receiving messages again from this number.
A message sender must act upon every opt-out event sent to them from the carrier. The opted-out consumer phone number must be removed from all distribution lists and be logged as “opted out” from SMS communications. This ensures that future messages are not attempted and consumer consent is honored.
If a message sender attempts to send a text message to a consumer that has opted out of communications with the speciﬁc phone number of the sender, then an error message is returned. The error message is returned within a ﬁnal delivery receipt and has a status code of 1110 (decimal)/ 456 (hex). If ﬁnal delivery receipts are not enabled, then no notiﬁcation is presented to the message sender.
Disallowed Sending Practices
If a message sender is observed performing any of the disallowed sending practices that are listed below, then an account review is performed. The review can result in the suspension of sending rights for a provisioned phone number; restriction of high-throughput access; suspension of provisioning rights for new phone numbers; and/or suspension of all network services.
All message senders are expected to enforce restrictions on their own networks to prevent these sending practices at the intake source.
- Continued sending to opted out consumers
- Opt-out avoidance
- High opt-out rate
- Snowshoe sending
- URL cycling
When a consumer opts out, they should no longer receive messages from that message sender. If they do receive messages, then it’s likely that the opt-out event was either not processed or processed incorrectly within the message sender’s network.
If a consumer opts out of communications with a business, then disregarding the consumers opt-out and sending a message from a new phone number from the same business is not allowed.
The daily opt-out rate on a phone number is deﬁned as the total number of unique consumer phone numbers divided by the unique opted out consumers that were sent messages within a 24-hour period. If the daily opt-out rate on a sending phone number is 5% or greater, then the number is ﬂagged for monitoring. An opt-out rate of 10% or greater on a sending phone number may result in immediate suspension of services.
Snowshoe sending is deﬁned as a technique used to spread messages across many source phone numbers, speciﬁcally to dilute reputation metrics and evade ﬁlters. Carriers actively monitor for snowshoe sending. If they discover snowshoeing, then the sending phone numbers may have their sending rights immediately suspended.
This practice is deﬁned as the utilization of multiple destination URLs on the same message content for the speciﬁc purpose of diluting reputation metrics and evading ﬁlters. URL cycling does not include the use of unique “personal” links to give a consumer custom content via a URL shortener or other means.
Best Practices for Message Content
SignalWire recommends the following best practices when generating content and choosing source phone numbers. High quality, well-formatted content is more likely to be opened and read by a consumer and less likely to be mistaken as spam by Consumers, Operators, and Carriers.
Recommendations for Content Creation
These best practices make messages more valuable to consumers and less likely to trigger real-time content analysis from ﬂagging messages incorrectly as spam.
- Use one recognizable number
- Use one recognizable domain name
- Use natural language
- Direct consent
- Set expectations on frequency
Each campaign should use one primary phone number. Using a single number for both text and voice calls is recommended.
Each campaign should be associated with a single web domain. Although a full domain is preferred, a URL shortener may be used to deliver custom links.
You should use natural language in your messages, which means that you do not use non-standard spellings. For example, “H! h0w ar3__you do1ng?” is a nonstandard spelling.
You should collect the consumer consent yourself, and not use consent acquired from a third party. The consumer is expecting a relationship with the business they interacted with.
You should set the proper expectation with the consumer for informational or promotional messages. If you are sending 5 texts a month, then disclosing “5/msg a month” on the ﬁrst interaction is a positive user experience.
If a message sender is observed sending any of the below listed disallowed content, then an account review is performed. This review can result in the suspension of sending rights for a provisioned phone number; restriction of high-throughput access; suspension of provisioning rights for new phone numbers; and/or suspension of all network services.
Message senders are expected to enforce restrictions on their own networks to prevent these types of content at the intake source.
- Fraud or scam
- Deceptive marketing
Phishing is the practice of sending messages that appear to come from reputable companies but in fact trick consumers into revealing personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
Any messages that constitute a fraud or scam, which involves wrongful or criminal deception intended to result in a ﬁnancial or personal gain, are prohibited. These messages generally involve money and/or some sort of business transaction.
Marketing messages must be truthful, not misleading, and, when appropriate, backed by scientiﬁc evidence in order to meet the standard held by the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Truth In Advertising rules. The FTC prohibits unfair or deceptive advertising in any medium, including text messages.
Today carriers us industry-leading spam containment vendors and monitors consumer complaints. These practices promote a sustainable model for healthy commercial texting, which is good for both consumers and message senders.
Major operators in North America support consumer-driven spam controls. Their mobile subscribers can forward unwanted or unconsented text messages to a dedicated short code, 7726 (it spells “SPAM” on a standard keypad).
Carriers monitor consumer complaints sent to this service for numbers on the network. If multiple complaints are received for a sender, then a notiﬁcation is sent to the message sender that includes the source phone number, destination phone number, timestamp, and original message ID that was given to the message sender upon message submission.
Upon receipt, the service provider must provide proof of TCPA compliant opt-in for those speciﬁc messages. They must also provide an overview of the messaging campaign and its opt-in process that the unwanted message was a part of.
If a large amount of unwanted or unconsented messages are reported on a source phone number, then that number may have sending rights immediately suspended while opt-in is being conﬁrmed.
Carriers track the opt-out rate on every source phone number that is active on their network. The daily opt-out rate on a phone number is deﬁned as the total number of unique consumer phone numbers divided by the unique opted-out consumers that were sent messages within a 24-hour period.
If the daily opt-out rate on a sending phone number is 5% or greater, then the account is ﬂagged for monitoring. An opt-out rate of 10% or greater on a sending phone number may result in immediate suspension of services.
Real-Time Content Analysis
Real-time analysis is used by carriers to identify if a message falls outside of the code of conduct or best practices.
This section includes links to industry resources that may be helpful as a message sender starts to craft messaging content.CTIA Messaging Interoperability Guidelines
MMA Best Practices
M3AAWG Best Practices
Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) Omnibus
Declaratory Ruling (FCC 15-72)
FTC Truth in Advertising