United States: The MMA/CTIA Guidelines

Last Updated: July 31 2015
Practice Guide by Klein Moynihan Turco LLP

The Mobile Marketing Association’s (MMA) U.S. Consumer Best Practices for Messaging (the “Guidelines”) are the telemarketing industry’s standard guidelines for Short Message Service (“SMS”) marketing campaigns. 

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (the “CTIA”) enforces the Guidelines by auditing the telemarketing practices of SMS program sponsors.  Although the Guidelines are not law (like the Telephone Consumer Protection Act ( “TCPA”) and Telemarketing Sales Rule (“TSR”)), the CTIA reports non-compliant SMS programs and providers to the major wireless carriers, which can choose to shut down or suspend the questioned marketing endeavors.

This Practice Guide offers a non-exhaustive, concise source of information to assist SMS marketers in navigating the Guidelines.  Please note that each SMS program is unique, and auditing standards often differ from carrier to carrier.  Telemarketers seeking guidance tailored to their specific needs should speak to an attorney with experience in this field.

Advertising/Call to Action

Pursuant to the Guidelines, advertising for SMS marketing campaigns should contain:

  • The program name;
  • Product description;
  • The frequency of messaging;
  • URL to the sponsor’s Terms and Conditions;
  • Opt-out (STOP) instructions (in bold if a recurring program);
  • HELP instructions; and
  • A disclosure that “Message and Data Rates May Apply.”

Sample Advertising Language:1

UpMobile Leisure Alerts!

Send us your vacation destination, and we'll send you up-to-date weather conditions.
To receive alerts for the Hamptons,

Text HAMPTONS to 123456.

Terms and conditions at UpMobi.le/tc.
Message and data rates may apply. Get 3 messages per month. Text HELP to 123456 for help. Text STOP to 123456 to cancel.

Terms and Conditions

For the purposes of the CTIA/MMA, the Terms and Conditions webpage should include:

  • The sponsor name or program information;
  • Customer service contact information (toll-free number, email address or web submission form);
  • The frequency of messaging;
  • HELP instructions (in bold);
  • Opt-out (STOP) instructions (in bold);
  • A disclosure that “Message and Data Rates May Apply”; and
  • All other material terms and conditions of the program.2

HELP Response Messages

Program subscribers should be able to receive help information by texting the keyword HELP to the program short code.  HELP response text messages should contain:

  • Program or sponsor name;
  • Description of the program;
  • The frequency of messaging;
  • Toll-free number and web address for support;
  • Opt-out (STOP) instructions; and
  • A disclosure that “Message and Data Rates May Apply.”

Opt-Out (STOP) Response Messages

Content providers should offer subscribers the opportunity to cancel the service at any time by texting STOP to the short code used for that program.  Telemarketers need only advertise the STOP keyword, but END, CANCEL, UNSUBSCRIBE and QUIT should also function as opt-out keywords.

The Guidelines also require the delivery of an opt-out text message.  When the user sends an opt-out keyword, the program is supposed to respond with a text message indicating: (1) the specific program that the subscriber has opted out of; and (2) that no further text messages will be sent.  However, telemarketers should be advised that some jurisdictions have interpreted opt-out confirmation text messages as violations of the TCPA. 

Confirmation and PIN Code/“Reply Yes” Messages

Under the Guidelines, telemarketers may send a confirmation text message following opt-in to a single-message program, and must send a confirmation text message following opt-in to a recurring-message program.  Confirmation text messages should contain:

  • Program or sponsor name;
  • Service description;
  • The frequency of messaging;
  • HELP instructions;
  • Opt-out (STOP) instructions; and
  • A disclosure that “Message and Data Rates May Apply.”

If web-based opt-in is used for a recurring SMS program, telemarketers should first verify that the subscriber is in possession of the phone before sending a confirmation text message.  The Guidelines suggest that providers accomplish this by sending a PIN code or “Reply YES” message, which should include:

  • Program or sponsor name;
  • PIN code or “Reply YES” instructions;
  • The frequency of messaging;
  • HELP instructions; and
  • A disclosure that “Message and Data Rates May Apply.”

If any user is inactive in any recurring text message program for eighteen months, the subject opt-in should expire.

“Program Content” Messages

Once users have opted into an SMS campaign, compliance disclosures such as “msg&data rates may apply,” HELP and opt-out (STOP) information are not required in program content messages. 

Reminder Messages

The Guidelines do not require reminder text messages for one-time message programs.  However, some carriers require sponsors to deliver a reminder message to recurring program subscribers every 30 days, which should include:

  • Program or sponsor name;
  • Description of the program;
  • The frequency of messaging;
  • HELP instructions;
  • Opt-out (STOP) instructions; and
  • A disclosure that “Message and Data Rates May Apply.”

Footnotes

1 IMPORTANT NOTE: The sample advertising language does not address all telemarketing legal compliance issues including, but not limited to, the requirement to obtain prior express written consent under the TCPA and concerns applicable to advertising to minors.

2 We recommend that telemarketers’ full Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy be hyperlinked here and agreed to by consumers at the time of sign-up.  This is not a TCPA or MMA/CTIA requirement/issue, but a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and state law compliance need.

This document is not intended to create an attorney-client relationship. You should not act or rely on any information in this document without first seeking legal advice. This material is intended for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. If you have any specific questions on any legal matter, you should consult a professional legal services provider.

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