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Jan 12, 2021
5 minutes read

Guide to Mobile Marketing Compliance in the U.S.

Customer consent is the key to mobile marketing compliance. With mobile marketing strategies on the rise, businesses must stay on top of commercial text messaging regulations. Today we’ll explain different mobile marketing laws and how they impact the SMS marketing industry.

What Are Mobile Marketing Laws?

Mobile marketing is an incredible tool for businesses to engage directly with their customers. But in a world filled with spam, not every marketing campaign creates a positive experience.

Mobile marketing laws protect consumers from unwanted message blasts and define the requirements for customer consent. According to federal regulations, consent for commercial text messaging must be given in writing. 

For businesses that want to invest in mobile marketing strategies to connect with their customers, mobile marketing compliance needs to be a top priority. So what do you need to know about mobile marketing laws in the United States?

Mobile Marketing Compliance and the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA)

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA), passed by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1991, is one of the earliest laws that addressed how businesses could contact customers for marketing purposes. Originally designed in the early days of telemarketing, the TCPA restricts unsolicited marketing calls, faxes, pre-recorded calls, and SMS text messages.

In 2013, the legislation was amended to require businesses to earn express written consent before sending marketing text messages to customers. The TCPA protects consumers by:

  • Requiring that text messages include the identity of the organization sending the text and opt-out instructions 
  • Instructing businesses to allow recipients to opt out by replying directly to the text message
  • Restricting commercial texting times to 8 a.m. to 9 p.m. (local time of the recipient)

Businesses that do not comply with the TCPA can be fined for “statutory damages” at $500 per violation and up to $1,500 for each willful violation. Class-action TCPA lawsuits have resulted in settlements up to tens of millions of dollars. The FCC and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) also have the authority to act against organizations that have violated the TCPA.


The CAN-SPAM Act (“Controlling the Assault of Non-Solicited Pornography and Marketing Act”) supplements the TCPA by restricting unwanted commercial email messages. The CAN-SPAM Act was enacted in 2003 and defines commercial messages as those that primarily advertise or promote a commercial product or service.

This mobile marketing law prohibits businesses from using deceptive marketing methods, such as misleading subject lines or sender names. The CAN-SPAM Act protects consumers by creating regulations about unsubscribe options, content, and sending behavior. Some examples include:

  • Preventing businesses from “harvesting” email addresses, either by buying email lists from spammers or “scraping” email addresses from the internet
  • Requiring that all commercial emails have a visible and operable unsubscribe option
  • Obligating businesses to have a physical address in the email message

The CAN-SPAM Act does not allow individuals to sue spammers directly or file class-action lawsuits. However, the FTC, State Attorneys General, internet service providers, and other federal agencies enforce the CAN-SPAM Act. These groups can bring both criminal and civil charges against spammers who violate the law.

Mobile Marketing Association (MMA)

The Mobile Marketing Association (MMA) is a nonprofit organization that shares industry best practices to educate businesses about mobile marketing compliance. Members of the MMA include major corporations like Amazon, Walmart, Citibank, and IBM.

The MMA publishes guidelines about mobile advertising on the web and via SMS text messages. Although the MMA does not have the power to enforce mobile marketing laws, they are a strong voice of influence in the mobile marketing industry.

The MMA collaborates with hundreds of companies, from General Motors to Google, to create programs and working groups that develop industry initiatives and guidance reports about mobile marketing compliance. To further protect consumers, the MMA also published a Code of Conduct to guide businesses in upholding consumer privacy standards and other mobile marketing laws.

Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA)

The Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA) is made up of wireless carriers and other organizations in the wireless communications industry. The CTIA enforces mobile marketing compliance by promoting industry best practices.

Although the CTIA is not a government agency with the ability to legally enforce mobile marketing compliance, they are still an influential organization. They can shut down SMS long codes (10-digit phone numbers) and short codes (5- to 6-digit phone numbers used only to send SMS text messages) or block text message services for organizations they determine to be noncompliant with mobile marketing laws.

The CTIA protects consumers from text-messaging spam by supporting consumer privacy legislation and advocating for other issues such as net neutrality. They also create mobile marketing compliance guidelines with the latest industry standards to teach businesses what to include in their SMS marketing messages, such as opt-out instructions and message frequency.

Stay Compliant with’s Mobile Marketing Cloud

Mobile marketing is a powerful tool to drive customer engagement. Manage your mobile marketing campaigns with Mobile Marketing Cloud, an omnichannel marketing platform that allows businesses to send SMS and mobile email campaigns to customers.

With Mobile Marketing Cloud, businesses can centralize their data, segment audiences and reach customers where they spend most of their time — on their mobile devices. Mobile Marketing Cloud also includes built-in features to manage opt-ins and opt-outs, giving businesses the peace of mind that their campaigns will stay compliant with mobile marketing laws.

Sign up for a free demo of Mobile Marketing Cloud today!

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