A question we are often asked is, “Is text message marketing software an automatic dialer?” Let’s look to the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), which specifically regulates the usage of Automatic Telephone Dialing Systems (ATDS).
Automatic Dialers and Text Message Marketing Software
The short answer is: yes, text message marketing software is an automatic dialer.
The simplest way to think about the terminology is to determine who (or what) is actually doing the texting or dialing. When Congress passed the TCPA in 1991, it did so because of a plague of telemarketing calls harassing US consumers in their homes—it was disruptive their lives. The goal of the TCPA was to limit that disruption, and modern rulings have adapted that goal to modern technology. If you are using a system or technology that allows you to send out massive blasts of marketing text messages at once, then it counts as an automatic telephone dialing system.
This is mostly because the FCC decided that a text message was, for the purposes of regulation, synonymous with a phone call. Therefore, the same limitations on “robocalls” were extended to text marketing. If your system or technology solution is the entity sending the messaging, then it falls under the regulatory eye of the TCPA. This is clearly defined in the law; in 2015, the FCC said that any device capable of dialing a telephone number automatically counts as an automatic telephone dialing system.
Knowing that, it’s both legally correct and legally smart to assume that any form of text message marketing software is considered an automatic dialer, and therefore must be TCPA compliant. Not doing so can risk your company being liable for hundreds of thousands of dollars of legal fees. It’s easier and safer to work within the guidelines of the TCPA and acquire consent from your consumers before messaging them.
It is for these reasons we always encourage clients to work with an SMS provider versed in TCPA regulations. The laws around TCPA compliance have fringe cases and grey areas that will be ruled on differently in each individual court or location. Having a team of trusted experts to guide you through the process and help you avoid the pitfalls will save you money in the long run.
We hope this breakdown was helpful to you! If you’re interested in learning more about text message marketing and the TCPA, check out our free TCPA Text Messaging Survival Guide.