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What Is a TCPA Established Business Relationship?


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What is an “established business relationship,” and why should companies care? It’s a question that we get asked often, and the terminology can be a little confusing when applied to SMS marketing, so we’ve decided to discuss it here.


TCPA & Established Business Relationships

The term “established business relationship” does occur in the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). However, the term is used specifically regarding calls to residential phone lines. Under the TCPA’s Do Not Call rules, established business relationships are connected to fax-related rulings; the TCPA states that contact cannot be made through fax without a previously established business relationship.

Unless companies call landlines and conduct fax marketing campaigns, this rule in the TCPA doesn’t apply to them. The established business relationship guidelines established in the TCPA do not apply to modern text message marketing. Instead, text message marketing is governed by its own unique set of rules, which you can learn more about in our free SMS marketing resources.


How to Be TCPA Compliant with SMS

Unfortunately, “established business relationship” is an oft-misunderstood term, leading to TCPA violations and messaging abuses. One of the most important parts of SMS marketing, at least regarding the TCPA, is acquiring express written prior consent from the consumer before text messaging begins. An established business relationship is much more loosely defined than consent is by the TCPA, making it functionally worthless to companies in this instance.

For example, if you call your local pizza company to order a pizza, you have established a business relationship with them. That does not mean the company is legally allowed to send you their SMS marketing messaging. They still need to require explicit, written, prior consent from you. If the company doesn’t do that, they are violating TCPA guidelines and are liable for damages.

So, make sure to get written consent to message your subscribers through at least an SMS opt-in (check out our free SMS marketing opt-in templates or 31 examples of SMS opt-ins for e-commerce sites), but don’t worry so much about established business relationships unless you plan on faxing or telemarketing consumers.

If you’re interested in learning more about text message marketing and the TCPA, check out our free TCPA Text Messaging Survival Guide.

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