Texting Your Customers: Mobile Texting Regulations for Auto Shops
If you’re planning to text sales and marketing related messages to syour customers it’s important that you understand and follow the rules. That’s because not following the rules could expose your shop to risk for substantial fines by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).
As an example, Jiffy Lube had to pay $47 million dollars for sending texts that asked consumers if they wanted to receive promotional texts. The FCC considers that first text a violation. So even sending a text requesting permission to send a marketing text is against the FCC rules. On the other hand, informational messages such as appointment reminders or vehicle status updates have fewer restrictions and are safer as long as they do not have marketing content included.
Is Sending Marketing Text a “Catch-22?”
- The FCC requires prior consent before sending marketing texts
- Obtaining Prior Consent to send marketing texts cannot be done via text
- FCC considers sending the first texts requesting permission a violation
- Use email and point-of-sale strategies for requesting Prior Consent
Why can’t I just send a follow-up text asking “How are you and your car doing?”
The FCC considers a marketing text any message that offer goods or services or “may induce a recipient to purchase goods or services.” The problem for your auto repair shop is that any “How are you doing?” informational type text could easily turn into a marketing text, putting your shop at possible risk. So just because your text starts off without an offer for goods and service, once it turns into an offer it becomes a marketing text and subjects your business to fines between $500 and $1,500 per illegal solicitation.
One of the biggest risks comes from texting campaigns to groups of customers, leaving you liable for exponential fines. That $1,500 fine could turn into $15,000 or even $150,000 if you send that promotion to 100 customers.
Of course, the reality is most consumers are not going to pursue litigation, but they could. With an increasing volume of unwanted calls and texts over time, consumers may become more agitated and apt to pursue legal action.
Getting the Right Consent to Text
The Telecommunication Protection Act (TCPA) was enacted in 1991 and the Federal Communications Commission (“FCC”) has implemented various regulations affecting texting since that time. The TCPA regulates telemarketing which includes texting to residential and business wireless lines. Text messages sent via a software application are subject to the same consumer protections as telemarketing “auto-dialers” or “robo call” calls under the TCPA. Depending on the content of the text and the technology used to text, there are two levels of consent required by the TCPA for texting a wireless phone line.
Prior express written consent for marketing text must include the following:
- Clearly provided consent (e.g. “I agree” / “I consent to”)
- Consent to deliver the text message by automated means (if applicable)
- Full disclosure that the recipient is consenting to engage in telemarketing
- The name of the specific company that requires consent
- The recipient’s phone number
- Full disclosure that consent is not required as a condition of receiving the products or services
- Finally, the customer’s signature
There you have it. Text messaging can be one of the most powerful forms of communication you can have with your customers, but it must be done properly and with full consent.
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