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What’s the Difference Between the TCPA and CTIA?


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One of the questions that we are asked most frequently by SMS marketers is: “What’s the difference between the TCPA and CTIA?” Though they sound similar, each offers different guidelines for SMS marketing. In this blog post, we explain the differences between the TCPA and CTIA.


What Are the TCPA and CTIA?

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) is a federal law in the United States that regulates how brands and organizations can contact consumers via phone calls or text message marketingThis legislation restricts unwanted telemarketing communications via voice calls, SMS texts, and fax. Here is a summary of TCPA rules.

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) is a trade organization for U.S.-based wireless carriers (i.e. Sprint, T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T) that creates guidelines for SMS marketers. Unlike with the TCPA, consumers can’t sue brands when they violate CTIA guidelines. Examples of CTIA guidelines include terms and conditions disclosures such as:

  • “message and data rates may apply
  • “text HELP for help”
  • “text STOP to unsubscribe”


Prior Written Consent for SMS Marketing

One of the most important guidelines for brands to follow when it comes to SMS marketing is obtaining written consent before messaging consumers. This means that it is required that each consumer provide a company with some form of consent before the company messages them. Written consent allows the consumer to be included in all forms of SMS marketing, no matter what message is being sent to the customer (e.g. informational or advertisement). We recommend closely reviewing the TCPA and CTIA consent guidelines to further avoid fines and lawsuits.


CTIA Penalties

Failure to adhere to the CTIA guidelines, won’t expose companies to lawsuits but it will get these companies in trouble. The CTIA can make the decision to shut down or suspend a brand’s SMS short code if the violations are severe.


TCPA Lawsuits and Statutory Damages

Contrary to violating the CTIA guidelines, neglecting TCPA laws can expose companies to some serious lawsuits. When brands face such lawsuits, they risk paying statutory damages that range from $500 to $1,500 per message, per plaintiff. With a high-volume, widespread SMS marketing campaign, fines and costs can quickly snowball into millions of dollars in damages. Additionally, the FTC, FCC, and State Attorney General can also sue a brand and fine them for violations.

To avoid such lawsuits, we recommend that companies work with a legal expert to navigate TCPA compliance. For further lawsuit protection and guidance, Tatango provides a helpful service of professional TCPA plaintiff monitoring.


Following the TCPA Rules and CTIA Guidelines

We recommend carefully looking into the TCPA compliance requirements and the CTIA guidelines during setup and/or before running any SMS campaigns. If you need some help better understanding the TCPA rules, watch the Tatango YouTube playlist, or reach out us to further discuss your questions or concerns.

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