Best practice: how to avoid violating the SMS spam law

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Mobile phones have given businesses greater and easier access to their customers than ever before, but where there’s convenient and simple access, there are those that abuse it. This is why there are many laws and guidelines put in place to protect the users, and in doing so, protect those that are not abusing lucrative messaging mediums.

According to the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) there are over 183 billion spam messages sent every day across the world. What message content actually constitutes a violation of the Spam Act is often ambiguous to the consumer, but must be clear to Australian businesses.

This guide will provide a detailed resource to steer your business in the right direction. We’re here to help you maximise the potential of SMS marketing in a manner that is lawful and beneficial to all parties.

Never purchase contacts or databases

The correct way to build your database is to offer incentives for customers to join, and make the process straight-forward and quick. Purchasing a mobile database guarantees you haven’t received the consent of your recipients, so you will be spamming them. If you’d like to learn more about how to build a database the correct way, take a look at our guide on how to build and SMS database.

Always identify yourself clearly

Do you like receiving messages from an anonymous sender? No? Well nobody does. To make sure you aren’t violating the Spam Act, ensure that you are clear about who you are. You can include the name of your business in the copy of your message, somewhere near the beginning or end so it stands out. However, this will take up valuable characters in a short message, which could mean the content of the message will suffer.

With our service, you can set your messages to display a Sender ID. This will save you in characters in the message copy, which means you have more room in the message to say what you really want to say. The Sender ID can be up to 11 alphanumeric characters and generally, you should put it as your business name. Or, if there are too many characters in that, you can get a bit more creative with it.

The only issue with having a Sender ID is that recipients cannot reply to an alphanumeric originator. So an opt-out number needs to be included in the message to comply with the Spam Act. However, as recipients cannot reply directly, this generally means the rate of opt-outs is lower.

Always get permission

Although inferred consent is sometimes substantial, it’s a bit of a grey area. We find it’s better to seek express consent from your database. There’s a number of easy simple ways to do this, such as having a subscription landing page on your website, with a place for your visitors to enter their mobile numbers to opt-in to receive regular mobile updates via SMS.

Always provide a simple opt-out option

It’s important that you offer a simple and obvious option of how to opt-out in order to comply with the Act. Include something in the copy of your message that offers a clear way for recipients to stop receiving messages from you, something along the lines of “To opt out reply ‘STOP’ to +614XXXXXXXX.”

Our service can provide you with automated opt-outs using a Virtual Mobile Number, this simplifies the opt-out process for you. You may also find it helpful to send a courtesy message in response to opt-outs, to confirm that their opt-out has been successful, and provide them with a means to opt back in if they wish. This will also maintain a good relationship with your audience, as well as ensuring you’re complying with the relevant legislation.

If you do not wish to purchase a Virtual Mobile Number, there are other ways for you to offer an opt-out. You could include your personal mobile phone number, but be aware that you will maintain responsibility for removing these numbers from your database. If you don’t you could get in trouble.

You could also use an email address for opting out, however again this requires time and effort from your end and is more difficult for the user, so may not help with your relationship. Another method is to include a URL that sends people to a form to enter their mobile phone number to be removed. Again, this could annoy users as it is more difficult. You will also have to maintain your database well to avoid getting in trouble.

We highly recommend getting a Virtual Mobile Number, as it is taken care of for you that way. It’s easier for you, and it’s easier for your audience.

We hope this guide will be helpful as you implement your SMS strategies, but we’d also love to have a further chat about it. So give us a call on 1300 764 946 to talk to one of our experts!

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Andrew Faulkner