SMS is a highly regulated channel and is subject to stringent rules, regulations, and carrier requirements. Certain message content is prohibited and wireless carriers will reject SMS and MMS messages containing prohibited content by default. Other use cases are subject to additional requirements, like age-gating procedures. If your business sends messages containing any of the types of prohibited content listed below, SMS may not be the appropriate channel to reach your customer base.
¶ SMS Prohibited Content
The following message categories are prohibited for SMS and MMS:
- High-risk financial services
- Third-party lead generation
- Debt collection and forgiveness
- “Get rich quick” schemes or Multi-level marketing
- Illegal substances
- Sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco (SHAFT)
Below, we discuss these categories in more detail.
|High-risk financial services||
“Third-party” means originating from any party other than the one which will service the loan.
SMS messages featuring financial investment advice or tips, as well as information on loans and refinancing options, are prohibited. Carriers also prohibit messages with links to donation sites.
Legitimate financial institutions may use SMS in accordance with certain restrictions, and often leverage text alerts for suspicious card activity, appointment reminders, and other transactional messages.
|Third-party lead generation services||
Buying, selling, or sharing of consumer data is strictly prohibited. The business that obtained consent is the only business authorized to send SMS.
“Cold” outreach is the solicitation of business from potential customers who have had no prior contact with the business and is strictly prohibited.
|Debt collection or forgiveness||
Almost all debt consolidation and forgiveness efforts are prohibited for SMS and MMS.
Regarding debt collection, the business owed the debt can send payment reminders to late payers, personalized messages with account details, and follow up on payment confirmations. However, a third party cannot attempt to collect the debt for you via SMS and MMS.
|"Get rich quick” schemes or Multi-level marketing||
Multi-level marketing (MLM) products, services, or content commonly associated with unsolicited commercial messages (spam) are prohibited.
This is different from outreach about employment as a result of compliant opt-in practices, messages from brokerages to their members, investment news alerts, or other investment-related messages.
||Cannabis is federally illegal in the United States. Cannabis businesses will not be permitted to use SMS/MMS messaging in the US, regardless of message content.
CBD is federally legal, but is not legal in some US states, so US carriers do not permit messaging related to CBD.
Offers for drugs that cannot be sold over-the-counter in the US/Canada are forbidden.
||While gambling traffic is prohibited on Toll Free, it is allowed on Short Code, or Long Code, as long as proper age gating procedures are in place.|
|"S.H.A.F.T." use cases||
* While Tobacco traffic is prohibited on Toll Free, it is allowed on Short Code, or Long Code, as long as proper age gating procedures are in place.
** Firearms and Alcohol traffic is allowed on Toll Free, Short Code, and Long Code, as long as proper age gating procedures are in place.
Vaping-related traffic is prohibited.
SHAFT is a handy acronym to help you remember types of content which is either forbidden or subject to special rules.
S: Secually inappropriate content
H: Hate speech or profanity
F: Firearms, and depictions or endorsements of violence
T: Tobacco (including vaping), or endorsement of illegal or illicit drugs, including marijuana and cannabis
In addition to the above, the promotion of gambling is not allowed.
Note: This information is not legal advice. You should consult with your legal counsel to make sure that your SMS program and message content comply with applicable laws.