Text Messaging Campaigns Scrutinized

Posted: December 11, 2013

cellphones_handsMarketing campaigns conducted through text messages have become increasingly popular over the last few years. Along with this growth, the scrutiny of enforcement agencies has increased as well. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), and the different state attorneys general, are paying close attention to this kind of marketing campaign now more than ever. This situation is exposed in two recent enforcement actions involving deceptive marketing campaigns via texts, which includes one settlement with the FTC and one law suit filed by the Ohio attorney general.

The first involves a marketing company that has agreed to settle with the FTC for charges of allegedly sending spam text messages to consumers. The text messages sent by the company, and its network of affiliates, deceived the consumers by supposedly offering free iPhones, iPads, and gift cards to those who proceeded to the link provided in the text message. The consumers who selected the link were directed to scam websites where they had to provide their personal information and were required to sign up for numerous additional offers or subscriptions that involved purchases.

The FTC ordered the defendant to permanently stop sending unsolicited text messages. They were also prohibited from sending “free” offers or products that direct consumers to scam websites and from misleading them about the use of personal information collected on those websites. The order also bans the defendant from operating an affiliate network for deceptive purposes. Additionally, the FTC ordered a monetary judgment of $356,950, which was suspended because the defendant was unable to pay.

Similarly, another enforcement action was implemented by Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine who has filed a suit against an individual who allegedly sent unsolicited text messages to a significant amount of consumers without prior express consent. The defendant was using the text message to drive traffic to third party websites. The text messages were sent using an autodialer and offered consumers prizes that could be obtained by visiting certain scam websites. Additionally, the unsolicited text messages were sent to many consumers who had their numbers registered on the National Do Not Call Registry.

These actions are a reminder about the importance of adhering to the telemarketing regulations mandated by the FCC’s Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and the FTC’s Telemarketing Sales Rule (TSR). If your company is conducting a marketing campaign through text messages, ensure these messages are sent to consumers who have provided prior express written consent. Also, ensure that the marketing campaigns are not deceptive or misleading, and, if any types of prizes or promotions are offered, the terms and conditions for such prizes or promotions are clearly presented to the consumer.

Juliana Betancur

Author: Juliana Betancur

Juliana Betancur is a Consultant Support Administrator at CompliancePoint. She assists the consulting team with the tracking of new enforcements and regulations. Juliana also assists with a variety of specialty tasks including international compliance projects.

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