VanillaSoft is committed to providing as much information about how the telcos are managing and enforcing A2P 10DLC as possible. VanillaSoft - along with many other service providers - have complained that roll-out of this new program has been confusing, and lacking in clarity. We share your frustration and hope that the following information will help ensure that your SMS messages are not flagged or blocked.
Unfortunately, we have found that SMS numbers may still be blocked even if registered to a campaign.
Here is our top advice based on our recent experience with the new A2P 10DLC program:
- Ensure that at least your first SMS message contains clear OPT-OUT instructions
- Insurance, financial services, recruiting, and other use cases (listed below) have a bad reputation and get the most negative attention from the telcos. If your use cases fall into these categories it is vital that you can demonstrate within your messages attempts to comply. The OPT-OUT instructions are the most important indicator.
The following information and best practices should help prevent message blocking. But please note, this may require you to make (possibly significant) changes to your standard messages or adopt approaches that you find are potentially less effective at engaging your target audience.
We urge you to read all of this information. However, if you would like to jump to a specific area of this article, select one of the sections here:
- How A2P 10DLC is Monitored
- A Few Bad Apples - The Most Complained About Use Cases
- General Best Practice Rules of Content
- Specific Best Practice Rules
- Consumer Consent
- Clean and Conspicuous Calls to Action
- Consumer Opt-In
- Consumer Opt-Out
- High Opt-Out Rate
- Embedded Website Links
- Embedded Phone Numbers
How A2P 10DLC is Monitored
The telcos generally do not actively monitor the content on their networks. Rather, they rely on customer feedback to alert them to possible violations (this could include high opt-out rates as well as direct complaints from their customers). We do not know how many complaints are required to prompt a review.
Even if your campaigns are registered, complaints will lead to a review of your message content by the telcos. We therefore urge you to adhere to these guidelines and best practices to ensure that your campaign does not receive a high volume of complaints and is not blocked. It appears as though the telcos are taking somewhat of a “guilty until proven innocent” approach, so it is vital that your messages contain evidence of compliance with the content rules.
This is especially true if your use cases are among those listed below.
A Few Bad Apples - The Most Complained About Use Cases
The telcos have compiled a list of use cases and content that have generated the highest volumes of consumer complaints in the past. Due to some groups being unscrupulous and/or fraudulent, they have tainted the messaging waters for legitimate businesses in many industries. As a result, these use cases may be blocked by carriers if sent over Application-to-Person (A2P toll-free/10DLC) messaging, regardless of contact opt-in status or your 10DLC registration status.
These use cases are as follows:
- Social marketing
- Collections Financial services, whether account notifications, marketing, collections or billing for:
- High-risk/subprime lending/credit card companies
- Auto loans
- Payday loans
- Short-term loans
- Student loans
- Debt consolidation/reduction/forgiveness
- Car Insurance
- Health Insurance
If your organization’s use cases fall into any of the above, following the best practices listed below will be necessary to help ensure your campaigns are not blocked.
General Best Practice Rules of Content
Message senders should take affirmative steps and employ tools which monitor and prevent unwanted message content, including content which:
- Is unlawful, harmful, abusive, malicious, misleading, harassing, violent, obscene/illicit or defamatory
- Is deceptive (e.g., phishing messages intended to access private or confidential information), including deceptive links
- Invades privacy
- Causes safety concerns
- Incites harm, discrimination, hate or violence
- Intended to intimidate
- Includes malware
- Threatens consumers
- Does not meet age-gating requirements
Specific Best Practice Rules
Below are a series of best practices that will help ensure your campaigns are not blocked. Of these best practices, the Consumer Opt-Out is probably the most important element to include in your campaigns.
The messaging ecosystem should operate consistent with relevant laws and regulations, such as the TCPA and associated FCC regulations regarding consumer consent for communications. Regardless of whether these rules apply and to maintain consumer confidence in messaging services, non-consumer (A2P) message senders should:
- Obtain a consumer’s consent to receive messages generally;
- Obtain a consumer’s express written consent to specifically receive marketing messages; and
- Ensure consumers have the ability to revoke consent.
Consent may vary upon the type of message content exchanged with a consumer. The following table provides examples of the types of messaging content and the associated consent that should be expected. The examples below do not constitute or convey legal advice and should not be used as a substitute for obtaining legal advice from qualified counsel. Reference to “business” below is used as an example of a non-consumer (A2P) message sender.
|Conversational messaging is a back-and-forth conversation which takes place via text. If a Consumer texts a business first and the business responds quickly with a single message, then it is likely conversational. If the consumer initiates the conversation and the business simply responds, then no additional permission is expected.||
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 needs to agree to receive texts for a specific informational purpose when they give the business their mobile number.
|Promotional messaging is a message sent which contains a sales or marketing promotion. Adding a call-to-action (e.g., a coupon code to an informational text) may place the message in the promotional category. Before a business sends promotional messages, the consumer should agree in writing to receive promotional texts. Businesses which already ask consumers to sign forms or submit contact information can add a field to capture the consumer’s consent.|
First message is only sent by a consumer.
First message is sent by the consumer or business.
One-way alert or two-way conversation.
First message is sent by the business.
|Message responds to a specific request.||Message contains information.||
Message promotes a brand, product, or service
Prompts consumer to buy something, go somewhere, or otherwise take action.
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 expected.
The consumer should give express permission before a business sends them a text message. Consumers may give permission over text, on a form, on a website or verbally.
Consumers may also give
The consumer should give express written permission before a business sends them a text message.
Consumers may sign a form, check a box online, or otherwise provide consent to receive promotional text messages.
Clean and Conspicuous Calls to Action
A “call-to-action” is an invitation to a consumer to opt-in to a messaging campaign. The call-to-action for a single-message program can be simple. The primary purpose of disclosures is to ensure that a consumer consents to receive a message and understands the nature of the program.
Message senders should display a clear and conspicuous call-to-action with appropriate disclosures to consumers about the type and purpose of the messaging consumers will receive.
A call-to-action should ensure consumers are aware of:
- The program or product description;
- The phone number(s) or short code(s) from which messaging will originate;
- The specific identity of the organization or individual being represented in the initial message;
- Clear and conspicuous language about opt-in and any associated fees or charges; and
Calls-to-action and subsequent messaging should not contain any deceptive language, and opt-in details should not be obscured in terms and conditions (especially terms related to other services).
Message senders should support opt-in mechanisms, and messages should be sent only after the consumer has opted-in to receive them. Opt-in procedures reduce the likelihood that a consumer will receive an unwanted message. It can also help prevent messages from being sent to a phone number which does not belong to the consumer who provided the phone number (e.g., a consumer purposefully or mistakenly provides an incorrect phone number to the message sender).
Depending upon the circumstances, a consumer might demonstrate opt-in consent to receive messaging traffic through several mechanisms, including but not limited to:
- Entering a phone number through a website;
- Clicking a button on a mobile webpage;
- Sending a message from the consumer’s mobile device that contains an advertising keyword;
- Initiating the text message exchange in which the message sender replies to the consumer only with responsive information;
- Signing up at a point-of-sale (POS) or other message sender on-site location; or
- Opting-in over the phone using interactive voice response (IVR) technology.
Message senders should also document opt-in consent by retaining the following data where applicable:
- Timestamp of consent acquisition;
- Consent acquisition medium (e.g., cell-submit form, physical sign-up form, SMS keyword, etc.);
- Capture of experience (e.g., language and action) used to secure consent;
- Specific campaign for which the opt-in was provided;
- IP address used to grant consent;
- Consumer phone number for which consent to receive messaging was granted; and
- Identity of the individual who consented (name of the individual or other identifier (e.g., online user name, session ID, etc.)).
Opt-out mechanisms facilitate consumer choice to terminate messaging communications, regardless of whether consumers have consented to receive the message. Message senders should acknowledge and respect consumers’ opt-out requests consistent with the following guidelines:
- Message senders should ensure consumers have the ability to opt-out of receiving messages at any time;
- Message senders should support multiple mechanisms of opt-out, including phone call, email or text; and
- Message senders should acknowledge and honor all consumer opt-out requests by sending one final opt-out confirmation message per campaign to notify the consumer that they have opted out successfully. No further messages should be sent following the confirmation message.
- Message senders should state in the message how and what words effect an opt-out. Standardized “STOP” wording should be used for opt-out instructions, however opt-out requests with normal language should also be read and acted upon by a message sender except where a specific word can result in unintentional opt-out. The validity of a consumer opt-out should not be impacted by any de minimis variances in the consumer opt-out response, such as capitalization, punctuation or any letter-case sensitivities.
High Opt-Out Rate
Message senders who receive high volumes of opt-outs could be flagged and indicative of poor sending practices. In the case that the daily opt-out rate is 5% or higher, the toll-free carrier or other carriers may monitor the campaign. The carrier may reach out for campaign and opt-in details and/or suspend services of high opt-out rate flagged campaigns at its discretion, not to be unreasonably exercised.
“Daily opt-out rate” is the total number of subscribers who received a campaign’s SMS divided by the number of opted out subscribers who received a campaign’s SMS in a 24-hour period.
Embedded Website Links
Message senders should ensure links to websites embedded within a message do not conceal or obscure the message sender’s identity and are not intended to cause harm or deceive consumers.
Where a web address (i.e. Uniform Resource Locator (URL)) shortener is used, message senders should use a shortener with a web address and IP address(es) dedicated to the exclusive use of the message sender. Web addresses contained in messages as well as any websites to which they redirect should unambiguously identify the website owner (i.e., a person or legally registered business entity) and include contact information, such as a postal mailing address.
Embedded Phone Numbers
Messages should not contain phone numbers that are assigned to or forward to unpublished phone numbers, unless the owner (i.e., a person or legally registered business entity) of such phone numbers is unambiguously indicated in the text message.