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Short Code Compliance

Compliance Self-Check

Carriers conduct routine audits on all components of a live short-code program to ensure ongoing compliance, but this begins during the program certification process, so it is important to not only get off to a good start but sustain compliance at all times.

Ask yourself the following questions when reviewing your mobile program. If you answer “no” to any of them, your campaign is at risk of noncompliance.

  • Do all of your CTAs display opt-in instructions, a brief description of service, the word “recurring” if applicable, a message and data disclaimer and links to both Privacy Policy and mobile program Terms & Conditions clearly and conspicuously?
  • Are all of your mobile programs clearly identified?
  • Have all of your mobile end-users provided express consent as defined by both the CTIA and the FCC TCPA?
  • Does your users’ consent apply solely to the program(s) for which they have expressly opted in?
  • Are your HELP and STOP keywords functioning properly, regardless of whether the end-user is opted into the program?
  • Do you present HELP and STOP information at point of opt-in?
  • Do you fulfill all opt-out requests within 72 hours of the end-user texting “STOP”?

Call to Action

Having an effective call to action is a springboard to a successful short-code program. A CTA both describes a mobile program and provides opt-in instructions to potential users. This article provides all you need to know about carrier expectations for calls to action. Remember: the carriers’ goal is to promote a consistent end-user experience across all short-code programs.

Cross-Media CTA Requirements

The required components for a successful Call-to-Action differ depending on the media it’s published in. However, there are certain aspects that carriers look for in all CTA’s:

  • Company name
  • Program name
  • Description of offer
  • Terms & Conditions’ location
  • Privacy Policy location
  • Customer support information*
  • Opt-in Instructions
  • Opt-out Instructions (if recurring)*
  • Message & data rates disclaimer
  • “Recurring” statement (if recurring)

*Opt-out instructions and customer support information may be left out of the CTA if they are described within the Terms & Conditions and the Terms are properly linked from the CTA.

Example Call to Action

The following is an example of a live CTA:

Text SMS to 77039 for recurring mobile marketing tips from Aerialink Messenger. Msg&DataRatesMayAply.
Privacy Policy:
Mobile Terms & Conditions:

Please keep in mind that on a web page, the T&Cs and Privacy Policy may take the form of linked text, but in print CTAs the full URL must be explicitly shown as demonstrated above. And remember: while opt-out instructions are no longer required in the CTA, they must be reflected in the Terms & Conditions.

Review the question-based sections below to better understand carrier expectations.

The “Why” About CTA Requirements

What the CTA provides is an answer to five “Ws” - who, what, when, where, how - to do with your mobile program. Below, we answer your “why” with in-depth explanations of which questions each compliance component answers.

Who is the sponsor?

  • Consistent company name

Any mention of the sponsor company name in the CTA must be consistent. If the CTA mentions “ABC University” in one sentence and “ABCU” in another, this a conflict in company name consistency which will be flagged by the carriers for its potential to cause end-user confusion. Ensure that your sponsor name remains consistent throughout your CTA, even if it seems repetitive.

What is the offer?

  • Consistent program name
  • Clear and conspicuous description of offer

Just as with the company name, the name by which you refer to your program must be consistent throughout your Call to Action. Furthermore, the words describing what your service provides must be clear and conspicuous without hidden meaning.

Where can I learn more?

  • Terms & Conditions location information
  • Privacy Policy location information

Users should be provided instructions for accessing your mobile program T&Cs and company privacy policy within your CTA.

When will this service contact me?

  • A clear time frame for which the program is active (if not on-going)
  • The type of service you are providing
  • Obvious statement of “recurring” if the program is recurring

Is your program on-going indefinitely or is it a one-month-long promotion? These questions must be answered in your CTA. Furthermore, while outright message frequencies expressing a detailed number of messages per time period are no longer required, programs that are subscription-based or “recurring” - that is to say, will send multiple messages post opt-in without requiring end-user prompting - must state that fact within their CTA.

How do I use the service?

  • Blatant opt-in instructions
  • Clear and conspicuous “Message and data rates may apply” disclaimer

“Text PROMO to 54321” is an example of an opt-in instruction. “Message and data rates may apply” is the standard-rate service’s pricing information. All of these things should be clear on your CTA and should not require scrolling or page-turning away from other portions of the CTA to read.

Note: Do not use the word “FREE” for a standard campaign. Subscribers are still paying for message and data rates via their carrier.

Terms & Conditions

Mobile program Terms & Conditions must be published and/or web-accessible and must contain the components outlined below. While multiple mobile Terms & Conditions can share the same page, each must individually meet these requirements in order for that code/program to maintain compliance. These mobile Terms may be hosted on their own mobile Terms page, or included within a distinct section of company Terms & Conditions. Review the checklist below to ensure that your mobile Terms & Conditions page meets all criteria.

For a live example of a completed Terms & Conditions page, visit our Aerialink Messenger Terms & Conditions.

STOP instructions

With “STOP in bold.

HELP instructions

With “HELP” in bold.

Call to Action

Most Terms & Conditions pages require only simple opt-in instructions (e.g., “send KEYWORD to #####”). However, if the end-user will receive a phone call as a result of opting in, a full Call to Action is required on the Terms & Conditions Page.

Program Sponsor information

Program name, company name and/or brand associated with the campaign

Program/Service Description

What the program is and what services it provides

Message and Data Rates Disclosure

“Msg&DataRatesMayAply,” worded thusly or spelled out, in bold.

Note: the phrase “standard rates may apply” is no longer accepted.

Statement of Recurrence

If your program will send out messages continually to the end-user post-opt-in without further end-user prompting, it must be described as “recurring.” This word should be bolded for easy location.

FCC TCPA Disclaimer

The following disclaimer is required for all marketing message campaigns:

“By opting into [Program Name], the end-user agrees to receive pre-written marketing messages from or on behalf of [Sponsor] via short code [SC#], and understands that consent is not a condition of purchase.”

Please note that campaigns which are transactional in content - that is to say, non-marketing in nature such as two-factor authentication, banking alerts, et cetera - are not required to include the above disclaimer.

Emergency Alert Disclaimer

If your service is providing emergency alerts, you should include the following disclaimer in your Terms & Conditions:

Alerts sent via SMS may not be delivered to you if your phone is not in range of a transmission site, or if sufficient network capacity is not available at a particular time. Even within a coverage area, factors beyond the control of your wireless carrier may interfere with message delivery, including the customer’s equipment, terrain, and proximity to buildings, foliage, and weather. You acknowledge that urgent alerts may not be timely received and that your wireless carrier does not guarantee that alerts will be delivered.

Customer service information

A toll-free number, email address or web submission form

The privacy policy linked from your mobile terms & conditions can be a general privacy policy for your company. It does not have to be specific to your mobile program.

All active keywords

If keywords are associated with different programs, we recommend separate T&Cs pages for each program.

Note: In addition to STOP, you must list END, QUIT, CANCEL and UNSUBSCRIBE as active opt-out keywords in your Terms & Conditions, and they must work as live opt-out keywords. STOP, however, is the only word required in CTAs and message content flows.

Material Terms and Conditions

Again, if multiple services are involved, they may share a page but must be distinct and clear from one another, and each program’s section must meet all of the requirements on this page.

Compatible carriers

A list of carriers who support your service. You can find the most up-to-date carriers supported by Aerialink here.

Carriers “not liable”

Per a requirement from T-Mobile, the T&Cs must state that carriers (or just T-Mobile, though the generalization is recommended) are “not liable for delayed or undelivered messages.”


If a checkbox is used by an end-user to accept the mobile terms and conditions, it cannot be pre-checked.

Use Case

Carriers will approve the use case for a mobile program as long as they have a clear understanding of what your service offers. Follow the guidelines below when determining your use-case.

Standard-Rate Campaign vs. FTEU

Aerialink supports Standard-Rate messaging, which is the term used to describe programs which are not Free-to-End-User. Message and data rates may apply to mobile subscribers of standard-rate campaigns and the use of the term “free” to describe standard-rate campaigns is prohibited. Some carriers may require additional fees from FTEU campaigns to accommodate their “free” status to end-users.

Note: “Premium” message programs - which charged end-users directly either per-message or with a recurring subscription fee - are no longer supported by the mobile services industry.

Useful, Informative or Entertaining Service

Your campaign must provide a service to the end-user. This service can be useful, informative, entertaining or any combination therein. A service which prompts a user to text in “hi” to receive a response of “hi” from your system is not a sound use case on its own and may be declined by the carriers.

No Adult Content

Adult-oriented violent or sexual content is prohibited.

Requested Interaction

The information you send to your end-user must have been solicited by them. Your use case must therefore include a call-to-action whose purpose is to grab user attention and invite them not only to try the service, but instruct them on how to do so. See the Call to Action article for more information about the CTA.

Message Content & Flow

All components shown in the templates within the sections below are necessary for full compliance. The following bulleted list is a key which will assist you in reading the template and the example shown below.

  • Items in [brackets] are those which will be replaced based on your specific use-case, as shown in the example.
  • Items in “normal” font outside of the brackets should appear in your texts exactly as they appear in the template.
  • The Additional Outbound Message is a second outbound message sent in a one-time program if all desired time-of-opt-in outbound message content cannot fit within the 160-character limits of the Opt-in message alongside all of the required components depicted below. The Additional outbound message will be charged your outbound message rate.

Please note that compliance requirements have recently changed - while the Sponsor & Program Name is still required within the body of the message, it is no longer strictly required at the beginning of the message followed by a colon (though we do recommend this format as best-practice and for saving character space).

One-Time Message Flow

Also referred to as a “query,” “transactional” or “non-recurring” service, the one-time message program is one in which the end-user texts in a keyword or submits a web prompt to receive the desired response instantly. The end-user will not receive any future messages from the service unless they text in or otherwise engage the service again.

Message FunctionDirectionContent TemplateContent Example
Opt-inInbound[Opt-in Keyword]COOK
Opt-inOutbound[Sponsor & Program Name]: [description of service] Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. [email or 8xx]FoodCo Recipe: Receive today’s recipe. Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. 18001234567
Additional Opt-inOutbound[Sponsor & Program Name]: [Additional Opt-in Outbound content] Msg&DataRatesMayAplyFoodCo Recipe: Quick and easy carrot cake - Msg&DataRatesMayAply
HelpOutbound[Sponsor & Program Name]: [email or 8xx] Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply STOP to cancel.FoodCo Recipe: for help. Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply STOP to cancel.
Opt-OutOutbound[Sponsor & Program Name]: You have unsubscribed from keyword and will receive no more messages. [email or 8xx]FoodCo Recipe: You have unsubscribed and will receive no more messages. 18001234567

OTP/2FA Message Flow

For One-Time Password or Two-Factor Authentication campaigns, the end-user has most likely signed up for a web service. In order to log into this web service or–for example–change a forgotten password, the site may forward them a one-time password that they may use to log in and change their password information.

Message FunctionDirectionContent TemplateContent Example
TriggerInbound[The end-user signifies online that they would like a one-time password sent to their mobile handset number, either entered at the time of the event or saved within a preexisting profile.]The end-user has forgotten his or her TechnoBuzz account password, and signifies that he or she would like a new temp password to be sent to his or her phone.
Auth/PINOutbound[Sponsor & Program Name]: Your one-time password is [PIN, code or password]. [instructions for use.] Msg&DataRatesMayAplyTechnoBuzz Accounts: Your one-time password is S18J567. You may use this to log into your TechnoBuzz account. Please change your password after use. Msg&DataRatesMayAply
HelpOutbound[Sponsor & Program Name]: [email or 8xx] TechnoBuzz Accounts: Call 18001234567 for assistance.
Opt-OutOutbound[Sponsor & Program Name]: You have unsubscribed from keyword and will receive no more messages.TechnoBuzz Accounts: You have unsubscribed and will receive no more messages.

Please note that while it may seem silly to provide HELP and STOP functionality for what is not only a one-time message but a flow that is not in and of itself a mobile-based campaign, it is a carrier-best-practice requirement that these keywords be understood by all end-users and be live and available with appropriate and applicable responses.

Recurring Message Flow

End-users who opt into a recurring or “subscription-based” mobile program elect to receive messages at regular or event-triggered intervals over a given or indefinite period of time. Unlike one-time message programs, these programs require a Subscription Renewal Reminder Outbound which you will see in the template.

Message FunctionDirectionContent TemplateContent Example
Opt-inInbound[Opt-in Keyword]AIRDEALS
Opt-inOutbound[Sponsor & Program Name]: [description of service w/ “recurring” statement] Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. [email or 8xx]PlaneTix AirDeals: Receive recurring ticket discount notifications! Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. 18001234567.
ContentOutbound[Sponsor & Program Name]: [Subscribed content] Msg&DataRatesMayAplyPlaneTix AirDeals: Porter Airlines is offering 50% off round-trip tickets through Thursday! Msg&DataRatesMayAply
HelpOutbound[Sponsor & Program Name]: [“recurring” statement][email or 8xx] Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply STOP to cancel.PlaneTix AirDeals: Recurring notifications. for help. Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply STOP to cancel.
Subscription ReminderOutbound[Sponsor & Program Name]: [description of service w/ “recurring” statement][renewal date] Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. [email or 8xx]PlaneTix AirDeals: Get recurrimg alerts about discount airfare! Renews 01/15. Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. 18001234567
Subscription ConfirmationOutbound[Sponsor & Program Name]: Subscription renewed. [“recurring” statement] Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. [email or 8xx]PlaneTix AirDeals: Subscription renewed. Recurring notifications. Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel.
Opt-OutOutbound[Sponsor & Program Name]: You have unsubscribed from keyword and will receive no more messages. [email or 8xx]PlaneTix AirDeals: You have been unsubscribed and will not receive any more messages. 18001234567.

Sweepstakes Programs

If your mobile program is a Sweepstakes, bear in mind that you must provide answers to the following:

  1. How is the program classified as a “sweepstakes”?
  2. Can/will end-users opt into the sweepstakes via a short code or program to which they have already subscribed?
  3. Can/will end-users initiate the opt-in via a separate CTA, keyword, or other opt-in mechanism?
  4. What is your CTA? Where will it be displayed?
  5. Where are your official rules located?

Aerialink Compliance articles are for informational use only. They do not constitute, and should not be taken as or in place of, legal advice. Aerialink customers are responsible for meeting all legal requirements applicable to their programs and are strongly encouraged to consult formal legal counsel.

This page was last updated 1562876017981