You may have noticed that many politicians have started using political text messaging in their election campaigns. In fact, 19% of voters say that text messaging is the best way to reach them. However, brands that send text messages are subject to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), a law aiming to protect consumers from unwanted marketing messages, and politicians are subject to many of the guidelines.
In this blog post, you learn how candidates can run a political text message marketing program while still remaining TCPA compliant.
Political Text Messages and the TCPA
You’ll often see these political text message campaigns advertised like the ones depicted below: a slogan with a keyword and short code to text in to.
How Politicians Can Be TCPA Compliant
In the eyes of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act, what is the difference between a brand and a political candidate?
The primary difference, as defined and recognized by the FCC, is that political campaigns and political messages are considered informational text messages, as opposed to marketing text messages. Because of this, the requirement for express prior written consent is waived for political text message campaigns.
If you refer to the examples above, the mere act of texting the text keyword to the given short code is considered consent in the eyes of the law.
It is important, however, that political candidates realize that they cannot go purchase phone numbers to build up a subscriber list, as those phone numbers haven’t given consent to receive text messages from that political candidate.
The fact that this consent is not technically “written consent” is important. If a marketing agency approaches a candidate and says, “I have 100,000 phone numbers of people that might be interested in your campaign,” the candidate legally should not purchase those numbers, as the recipients have given no form of consent.
The text message recipients must directly give their phone number and consent themselves to the text messaging campaign, not a third party.
So, what happens when there’s political merchandise? In this case, their messaging is still considered informational as long as the products mentioned are being sold purely to raise money for the campaign. This kind of ruling is similar to the ruling for nonprofit text messaging in that regard.
TCPA for Text Messaging: Learn More
With that said, interpretations of, and rulings on, this specific provision can vary from court to court, so it’s always a good idea to work with an expert legal advisor and an SMS provider who understands TCPA guidelines.
We hope this breakdown was helpful to you! If you’re interested in learning more about SMS marketing and the TCPA, check out our free TCPA Text Messaging Survival Guide.