US Messaging Use Cases
Mobile messaging is a heavily regulated space. We all benefit from this in the form of a clean, direct, and effective line of communication to our audiences. However, these rules and regulations do need to be carefully navigated.
It’s important to know which use cases are allowed and which aren’t, and then to submit the required details to the operators. This guide sets out everything you need to know about US carrier requirements for some common use cases.
First, a disclaimer...
The list of common allowed and disallowed use cases (below) isn’t comprehensive.
Other types of use cases may result in additional questions from the carriers. It’s important to remember that each network is owned and operated on an individual basis. As such, carriers reserve the right to reject or question any specific campaign.
All campaigns are subject to full review by all of the carriers and will need to be approved on a case-by-case basis.
That said, let’s dive into the do’s and don’ts (as outlined by the US carriers) for the most common messaging use cases.
|Allowed with restrictions
|Abandoned Shopping Cart Notifications
|Bank fraud alerts
|Charitable Donation Campaigns
|Emergency alerts / time-sensitive alerts
|Free to End User
||Purchases via short code
||Sweepstakes and Contests
|CBD & cannabis
||Shared Short Codes
||White Labelled (affiliate marketing) Programs
|High risk loans
Now let's drill down deeper into these common use cases, and detail what you need to know. First, let's look at the 'Allowed with restrictions' list.
Allowed with restrictions
Abandoned Shopping Cart Notification (ASCN)
- Call to action and Terms and Conditions must disclose that this messaging program includes ASCN
- Requires a double opt in and double opt in message content must clearly inform the user that this
determine when a consumer cart has been abandoned (e.g. website cookies, plugins, etc.)
- No more than one ASCN per event, ASCN must be sent within 48 hours after abandonment
- ASCN must not result in the completion of a transaction on behalf of the customer
- Abandoned cart notification must not collect payment information or accept approval for
purchase via keyword confirmation from the consumer
- Consumers must complete the transaction by processing payment themselves via a direct URL
link to the e-commerce website
This use case is limited to Cart Abandonment messages and SMS messages should not be triggered based on views or clicks. SMS messages should only be triggered when a user places an item in their cart.
Bank fraud alerts
There is a TCPA exemption for bank fraud alerts which means that the end user’s prior express consent isn't required. In order to qualify for this exemption, the below requirements must be adhered to:
- Must be zero-rated (FTEU)
- Must be sent only to the wireless number provided by the customer of the financial institution
- Must state the name and contact information (e.g., phone number) of the financial institution
- Messages cannot include marketing, advertising, or debt collection content
- Limited to a maximum of three texts over a three-day period from a single financial institution to
the owner of the affected account
- Message must inform recipients of the ability to opt-out by replying “STOP,” which will be the
exclusive means by which consumers may opt-out of such messages
- ‘Reply STOP to cancel’ should be in all ‘content MT’ for these types of campaigns
- Opt-out requests must be honored immediately
Charitable Donations Campaigns
If the campaign utilizes text messages to support, remind, suggest, request, or advertise any “giving” or “donation”, then it’s considered a donation campaign.
- Infobip can run the messaging but cannot handle the mobile billing. The customer must already have an agreement with a mobile billing provider.
- If the donation aspect of the campaign is not taking place via the short code (donation will take place via a web form via URL sent) the following must be adhered to.
- Charitable donation programs must conform to the non-profit messaging guidelines in the CTIA Messaging Principles and Best Practices. All Charitable Organizations must meet the following qualifications:
- Qualified as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code are eligible.
- Charitable organizations must be accredited by at least one arm’s-length, disinterested nonprofit accreditation organization (e.g., Better Business Bureau Wise Giving Alliance, Charity
- Charitable organizations must receive separate opt-in for informational and solicitation messages if they provide both types of messages under the same Short Code;
- Charitable organizations may not use the message program for lotteries, sweepstakes, raffles,
or recurring donations;
- No entities involved in the donation campaign, aside from the charitable organization itself, may use any part of the mobile subscriber data collected; and
- For charitable donations programs outside of direct-carrier billing, the dedicated application address must be leased/owned by the charitable organization
- Furthermore, charitable donation programs supported by a DCA must provide the following requirements:
- Provide the following Charitable Organization information for proof of qualified as tax-exempt under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code:
- Name of Company/Non-Profit Organization
- Tax Identification (EIN)
- Charitable Organization Website
- Accreditation Organization Website Listing Company/Non-Profit
- Charitable organizations accepting donations must maintain 501(c)(3) tax-exempt status and should not fall under the classification of 501(c)(4) entities. These organizations are also expected to avoid any display of political bias on their websites or in their messaging. In the event of political affiliations or leanings, they must adhere to the political messaging requirements (see 'Political campaigns' section).
Emergency Alerts/Time-sensitive alerts
- A terms and conditions page must include the verbiage “wireless carriers are not liable for delayed or undelivered messages.”
- It is also recommended that emergency notification campaigns be submitted as FTEU to override blacklisting or messaging bucket limitations. It is not a requirement but recommended to ensure that users who have exhausted their limited text plan or are blacklisted from SMS programs will still receive these notifications.
- Emergency Alerts programs should be watermarked to indicate Urgent/Emergency designation and only used in the case of true emergency or time-sensitive alerts.
*10DLC Emergency Alerts use case type requires post registration approval and can only be used for emergency services and not as a mixed use case or for any general alerts.
Free to end user
- An FTEU message is provided at no charge to the subscriber
- FTEU short codes can only be used for FTEU (they can’t run concurrently with standard services
on the same network)
- “Msg&Data Rates May Apply” should not be included in MTs or on websites for FTEU programs
- All MTs should begin with “FREE MSG”
*FTEU only supported on Short Codes
- Promotion of gambling is strictly disallowed
- Any campaigns that pertain to gambling or casinos must include a robust age gate
- Lottery programs are allowed if they are not promoting gambling
- In practice, this means that Powerball jackpot results are allowed – for example, Powerball jackpot results are XXXX
- But ‘Play Powerball jackpot at www.com to win now’ is not allowed
- For lottery programs, confirmation that the company is an official affiliate partner of the lottery is required
- Two-Factor Authentication for gambling programs is approved on a case-by-case basis
- Promotion of casinos is not allowed directly, however, SMS may be used to promote events inside a casino
- Real estate alerts about home listings, for example, apartment finder alerts, are allowed
- Campaigns that are tied to an actual direct realtor or property management company would be
more closely considered
- End-user information must not be shared with third parties/affiliate marketers
- A content provider must be the direct insurer and not a reseller of insurance
- Insurance quotes must only be for the specific direct insurer
- End user information must not be shared with third parties/affiliate marketers
As keyword opt-in is generally not how these campaigns run, a complete description of the process and/or screenshots to be reviewed must be provided.
- The content provider must be the direct hiring agency, or head-hunting firm
- End-user information must not be shared with third parties/affiliate marketers
- These alerts are disallowed:
- Work-from-home programs
- Job alerts from third-party recruiting firms
- Risk investment opportunities
Only campaigns for the direct lender will be considered, and the message sender must be the loan originator. Please also note:
- The mobile CTA/web opt-in must be separate from the end user signing up for the application/
- As keyword opt-in is generally not how these campaigns run, please provide a complete description of the process and/or screenshots to be reviewed
- Verbal opt-in is NOT allowed for loan-type campaigns
- End user information must not be shared with third parties/affiliate marketers
- Must provide a completed loan questionnaire for review
Alerts notifying consumers of upcoming payment reminders are allowed for example, “your bill is due on XX/XX”.
When submitting these types of campaigns, please include the following note in the description field within the program summary: “The alerts will be courtesy reminders to the users for payment dates. The ability to initiate a payment cannot be made via SMS and messages may not indicate an overdue/past due notice.”
*Payment reminder programs must be run by the direct owner of the debt. Messages can be sent for payment reminders from a debt collector if and only if the debt collector has obtained direct consent. Passthrough or implied consent is not considered.
Political campaigns will require a CTA/opt-in policy that is clear and applied consistently.
- If the Political Campaign will also support donations, the following must be provided as well:
- A valid call-to-action and clear product description within the SMS terms of service which clearly discloses that donations will be solicited
- Example MT for donation messaging, including the URL
- There must be additional transparency on the political entity:
- Politician/organization name
- Politician/organization website
- FEC ID – required if candidate/organization is involved in a federal-level election and donations will be solicited
- State Committee ID - required if candidate/organization is involved in a state-level election and donations will be solicited. In lieu of the State Committee ID, official documentation from a state institution can also be provided as proof that the candidate/organization is engaged in a state-level election
Purchases via short code
- Purchase confirmation via SMS is not permitted – for example, reply BUY to purchase this item.
- A URL in the text message that will redirect the end user to a web form to complete their purchase would be permitted. This must occur every time a purchase will need to be completed and can’t be used as a single authorization of recurring orders.
SHAFT stands for SEX, HATE, ALCOHOL, FIREARMS and TOBACCO. Hate, or hate speech is never allowed. However, messaging related to sex (adult content), alcohol, firearms, and tobacco will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis by each of the US Mobile Network Operators in accordance with all applicable laws.
- All SHAFT messaging requires a Robust Age Gate
- Robust Age Gate requires a user reply via MT with their birthdate xx/xx/xxxx or a web opt in form field which requires the user to include their birthdate
- Asking a user to “reply YES/AGREE to confirm they are over a certain age is not considered robust age verification
- As a standard, direct promotion of the sale or consumption of these products is not typically allowed
- Example: “Use code DRINK15% for 15% off our newest vodka at www.drink.com”
- Indirect promotion of these items will be approved on a case-by-case basis
- Things like cart reminders, shipping notifications, and exclusive coupon codes for the website will be approved on a case-by-case basis
- Example: “Brand: Hey did you leave something in your cart? Complete your checkout now by clicking www.website.com
- Firearms programs are approved on a case-by-case basis
- Must include a robust age gate (age gate should be for 21+ as gun sales are not legal in all 50 states at 18)
- No direct promotion of the use or sale of firearms
- All SMS messages must only contain content that is legal in all 50 states (i.e content regarding ARs is disallowed as ARs are not legal in all 50 states)
Sweepstakes and Contests
A sweepstake is a legal game that includes a prize, and a game of chance. No consideration is allowed. (The definition of a sweepstake includes anything with a prize component regardless of the method of prize delivery.)
A contest is a promotional mechanism that includes a prize, and a game of skill. Consideration is allowed, but there cannot be any element of chance. Some details to note:
- For sweepstakes, you must provide a copy of all official rules and guidelines and the ‘in market’ call to action that was used
- Services viewed as sweepstakes/contests include any service where points or prizes are awarded/reverse auction/skills games (Sprint)/IVR voting (Sprint)
- Sweepstakes and contest rules must be present on the website and must include (but not limited to):
- Rules must be prominently located on the website associated with the sweepstakes
- Rules cannot be generic – that is, covering multiple sweepstakes of a type that may run in connection with a program – but must relate to an actual sweepstakes
- Name and contact information for sponsor
- Any eligibility restrictions applicable to participants or winners, such as state of residence
- Description of means of entry
- Date(s) the prizes will be awarded
- Description of prize(s)
- Method of awarding prize(s)
- Description of how the winner(s) will be contacted and method for obtaining a list of winners.
- Who is eligible for sweepstakes and how the winner is selected?
- Age restrictions
- Free method of entry
CBD & cannabis
Messaging related to CBD and cannabis is not supported by all US carrier networks. The regulations on this vary from state to state and from federal to state level. Such use cases are disallowed.
Any program submitted to the US Operators that would be considered competitive in nature is disallowed to run on other networks.
3rd Party Debt collection messages are not permitted. This includes messaging related to debt forgiveness, debt consolidation, debt reduction, or credit repair programs. Messaging related to debt forgiveness, debt consolidation, debt reduction, or credit repair programs is not permitted.
High risk loans
Messaging related to high risk loans is not permitted. This includes (but is not limited to) payday loans, short-term high-interest loans, auto loans by a third party, mortgage loans by a third party, and student loans.
Any campaigns that are used for lead generation or indicate the sharing of collected information with third parties are not permitted.
Shared short codes
Shared short codes are not allowed. All short codes (and 10DLC numbers) must have a dedicated sender. In rare instances, short codes may be approved to represent multiple brands in the messaging, if, and only if there is a single message sender/controller and the use case is the same.
The submission of campaigns with a supporting website which was created as a white-labelled website used only to collect opt in or for promotion of affiliate marketing is a disallowed campaign type. Websites created to mislead users to opt in to unrelated or unauthorized campaign is strictly prohibited.
Here to Help
We hope this quick guide has proved useful. With a clear understanding of which use cases are allowed – and which aren’t – you’re more likely to feel confident and in control of your SMS and MMS campaigns. Our sweet spot here at Infobip is getting campaigns approved by the carriers, and up and running fast. We’re here to help with any specific questions you may have.