SMS Marketing Best Practices

SMS Marketing – CTIA vs FCC vs MMA

There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation in SMS marketing about laws, compliance and best practices. In our experience, the majority of the confusion comes from businesses not knowing the difference between the CTIA, the FCC and the MMA and the role each of them plays in SMS marketing.Below we explain the differences between the CTIA, FCC and MMA when it comes to SMS marketing.

CTIA (Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association)


The CTIA is a trade association made up of the wireless carriers and others that operate in the mobile space. CTIA created the “Common Short Code System,” which is the primary means of sending SMS marketing messages to consumers. As part of the Short Code system, CTIA has established rules for Short Code-based SMS marketing programs, which are enforced through audits. If your SMS marketing program is found to be in violation of the CTIA rules during one of these audits, the CTIA will report you to the carriers, and the carriers may shut you down or suspend your program until the issue has been resolved.

The CTIA guidelines contain a lot of detail about text message marketing. They tell you what must be included in an advertisement for an SMS program (message and data rates may apply, help and stop commands, messaging frequency, links to terms and conditions, privacy policies, etc.), as well as what must not be included.

Since the CTIA guidelines aren’t law, consumers can’t be sued for violating them, but you do run the risk of having your SMS program shut down by one or more carriers. If you’re interested in learning more about the CTIA guidelines for text message marketing, you can download Tatango’s guide on CTIA compliance here.

FCC (Federal Communications Commission)

Federal Communications Commission Logo

While the CTIA guidelines aren’t law, the TCPA is federal law. In addition, the FCC has implemented lots of rules about how the TCPA needs to be enforced. No business has ever been sued for not following CTIA guidelines, but countless brands have been sued under the TCPA, including large brands such as Jiffy Lube and Papa John’s.

Unlike the CTIA, which is very specific, nothing in the TCPA specifically targets text message marketing. In fact, the TCPA doesn’t mention text message marketing at all. Rather, the TCPA talks in terms of making “calls” to consumers. Interpreting the TCPA, the FCC has found that SMS messages and even faxes are “calls,” just like any traditional voice call.

In Summary, the TCPA is all about businesses obtaining permission from the customer to send them SMS marketing messages, the specifics of how this permission can be obtained, and what is allowed after permission has been granted.

If you’re interested in learning more about how the TCPA laws impact text message marketing, you can download Tatango’s guide on TCPA SMS marketing compliance.

MMA (Mobile Marketing Association)

Mobile Marketing Association Logo

Lastly, there’s the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), which releases its own SMS marketing best practices document that is very similar to the Mobile Commerce Compliance Handbook the CTIA puts out. The MMA best practices for SMS marketing aren’t law, like the TCPA is, and they aren’t specifically enforced by anyone, although folks can incorporate these best practices into their SMS marketing campaigns.

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