Text messaging has been around since the 1990s, and it didn’t take long for businesses to realize the potential of this new communicative medium. By 2005 major brands such as Pontiac and Nike were using SMS messaging to deliver marketing materials to consumers and making them a part of interactive campaigns.
The massive rise in the use of SMS as a marketing tool led to an unfortunate proliferation of spam text messages and unwanted marketing communications. This led countries around the world to issue regulations governing the use of SMS by businesses. The UK has some of the strictest laws around text messaging. If you have a business in the UK and are planning an SMS campaign, it is worth knowing the regulations that the government has put in place to keep the marketplace safe and fair, especially if you are not too familiar with it compared to the US. Here is a quick guide to some of the most pertinent regulatory laws.
A company must not send text messages to a consumer without the explicit consent of that user, although there are some exceptions when a consumer has previously purchased a product from that company. Agencies such as Boomerang Messaging can help companies ensure that they do not send unsolicited text messages using recently developed software. Opt-in laws are taken very seriously in the United Kingdom, and companies that break this kind of regulatory law can find themselves lumped with hefty fines and consumer complaints.
Companies running SMS marketing campaigns must, by law, respect the right of consumers to opt out of text messaging. They must offer, within their text messages, an avenue for opting out that is clear to consumers reading their SMS materials. Knowingly sending messages to consumers who have opted out is considered to be a breach of consent and can be punishable by fine. Sending messages to consumers who have opted out is also a very quick way for a company to erode consumer trust.
The UK has strict data protection laws aimed at keeping people’s sensitive information safe, despite the constant use of that information by businesses for marketing and market analysis purposes. Consumers receiving text messages from a business must be made aware of how their data will be used during the opt-in stage.
The actual content of commercial text messages is regulated in the United Kingdom. Companies cannot send messages that might offend or exclude groups of people. Any sexism, racism, and general prejudice in commercial text messages is likely to lead to regulatory action – and quite rightly so. Marketing materials sent to children must fall within guidelines already in place regarding child safety. According to a 2020 YouGov poll, 53 percent of UK children own a mobile phone by the time they are 7 years old. This is an especially important fact to consider for marketers using SMS. All messages sent should be appropriate for children due to the extreme likelihood that at least a portion of the recipients of a mass message will be under the age of 18.
As you can see, the use of SMS messages has developed hugely since the 1990s, and the laws have had to change in order to reflect this.