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Message Content Assistance

The CTIA and U.S. wireless carriers have created these content requirements for business-to-consumer messaging so that their customers, the mobile users, have a consistent user experience with a clear understanding of all aspects of the service to which they have subscribed. A consistent experience and clear support information reduces the number of customer service calls and complaints to wireless carriers. The message components described in the following articles are required for both recurring and one-time message programs.*

High-Risk Marketing

Within the mobile messaging space, some marketing campaigns or segments are considered problematic by the carriers due to a high volume of subscriber complaints and propensity to be associated with deceptive practices - in other words, “high risk.”

As stated by the CTIA, “Message Senders should use reasonable efforts to prevent and combat unwanted or unlawful messaging traffic, including spam and unlawful spoofing. Specifically, Message Senders should take affirmative steps and employ tools that can monitor and prevent Unwanted Messages and content, including for example content that: (1) is unlawful, harmful, abusive, malicious, misleading, harassing, excessively violent, obscene/illicit, or defamatory; (2) deceives or intends to deceive (e.g., phishing messages intended to access private or confidential information); (3) invades privacy; (4) causes safety concerns; (5) incites harm, discrimination, or violence; (6) is intended to intimidate; (7) includes malware; (8) threatens Consumers; or (9) does not meet age-gating requirements. Message Senders should take steps to ensure that marketing content is not misleading and complies with the Federal Trade Commission’s (FTC) Truth-In-Advertising rules.”

The landscape of SPAM has changed and carriers are taking a zero-tolerance approach as they prepare for 10DLC with higher blocking and full shutdowns of traffic that exposes subscribers to shady companies who use texts to tempt end-users into taking certain opt-ins. From “wipe out debt” to job scams asking consumers to share personal information or hand over money, many of these SPAM texts are sent by fee-charging businesses that make unrealistic promises to help with consumers’ money worries and prey on people in debt.

The following use-cases have been deemed high-risk and will be blocked by carriers even when the program supports opt-in and opt-out mechanisms. That’s right - even if there is an opt-in and an opt-out, the use-case could still be problematic. In the case of affiliate marketing, for instance, the consumer can text “STOP,” but what exactly are they stopping? More often than not, they are opting out of a single number, but their own number has been shared to the subscriber lists of hundreds or thousands of numbers across multiple content providers. This is the primary reason why affiliate marketing is high-risk and blocked by carriers.

Ultimately, carriers reserve the right to reject programs at their discretion on all messaging routes including short codes, toll-free numbers and standard (local) numbers. Please note that as new SPAM campaigns are identified every day, the below list may change or evolve at any time.

  • Lead/Commission Generation, Affiliate Marketing
  • Cart Abandonment Notifications (read more below)
  • Loan Forgiveness, Loan Matching, Loan/Debt Consolidation, Debt/Student Debt Relief*
  • Finance/Investment Opportunities
  • Tax Relief
  • Mailbox Rental
  • Credit Report Scoring/Related Content
  • Work From Home, “Get Rich Quick”
  • Phishing, Fraudulent/Deceptive/Misdirecting Links
  • CBD/Marijuana Dispensary Promotions
  • Promotions of Any Illegal Substances
  • Any content in violation of SHAFT**

* Some examples of these problematic loan campaigns include but are not limited to payday loans, short-term loans, auto loans, mortgage loans, student loans.
** Note that while SHAFT is technically a policy which applies to short codes, any content on any sender ID type found to be in violation of SHAFT may be subject to blocking by the carrier or by Aerialink.

Cart Abandonment Notifications

Cart Abandonment Notifications are sent as strategic marketing follow-ups to users who have added items to onlinie shopping carts but did not complete their transaction. This is high-risk traffic because end-users did not directly opt in to receive text messages and these messages carry high potential for negative interaction with recipients.

Simply put - you must establish clear consent from recipients at the time information is collected. They must consent to the type of message and from whom they are receiving it. Carriers field a lot of subscriber complaints from marketing messages because e-comm businesses fail to get explicit consent from consumers. The Call-to-Action for opt-in should describe the types of messages recipients can expect to receive and should include clear opt-out instructions.

Therefore, there is always a high chance that carriers will block Cart Abandonment traffic.

Short Code Campaign Requirements

Initial / Opt-In Message

Acceptable opt-in methods for a U.S. Short Code Campaign are:

  • Handset
  • Web Form
  • Mobile App
  • IVR

Initial / Opt-in MT

  • Sponsor/Program Name
  • Product Description
  • Message Frequency/“Recurring” Statement*
  • Msg&Data Disclaimer
  • Help Instructions
  • Stop Instructions
  • Customer Support Info

*If your program is recurring, you are required to state as much explicitly within your Opt-In MT.

Primary Content Message

Contains a program’s primary content such as account alerts, promotions, sports updates, information about the subject, etc.

In a Recurring Message Flow the Primary Content Message may appear at any time, including immediately following the Opt-in Message, provided that it does not exceed the message frequency.

It requires only:

  • Sponsor/Program Name
  • Msg&Data Disclaimer

In a One Time Message Flow the Primary Content Message:

  • Is an optional 2nd message that immediately follows the first message.
  • May use all 160 characters/spaces freely*

A one-time message program’s application should place a short delay on the Primary Content Message so that it is not delivered to the end-user’s mobile device prior to the first message containing the required compliance language. Messages sent out of order will confuse the end-user and risk audit failure through major carriers who require that a message containing all compliant content be delivered to the handset first.

*The first of the two one-time messages must contain all compliant language required of an “initial” (opt-in) message.

Help/“Customer Care” Message

End-users must always be able to send “HELP” and receive what is referred to as “customer care” information. Furthermore, short codes are now required to send “Customer Care” messages at regular intervals (once a month being the minimum) with “customer care” contact information included. We recommend just using your HELP message for this, and sending its contents out once monthly.

Help/“Customer Care” MT

  • Sponsor/Program Name
  • Message Frequency
  • Msg&Data Disclaimer
  • Stop Instructions
  • Customer Support Info

Multi-Program Help Menu

If a shortcode contains multiple programs, the application should support a multi-program help menu. A multi-program help menu should detect how many programs a single user is subscribed to. If they subscribe to multiple programs, it should respond with the following message flow:

Help MO:

HELP

Multi-Program Help Menu:

You are registered in multiple programs. (keyword, keyword). Please send HELP with the keyword desired.

Program-Specific Help MO:

HELP keyword

Program-Specific Help MT:

Sponsor & Program Name: Msg Frequency. Customer Support Info. Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply STOP to cancel.

The multi-program help menu must contain:
  • “You are subscribed in multiple programs.”
  • A list of user-subscribed keywords
  • Instructions on how to access help for the desired program
The multi-program help menu need NOT contain:
  • Sponsor/program name
  • Msg&Data disclaimer
  • STOP instructions

Message Flow Tip –Reserve the words “INFO” and “ASSIST” as keywords which trigger help message responses. This could minimize carrier-requested changes.

Subscription Reminder Message

All Recurring Message Programs are required to support a subscription reminder message.

  • Sponsor/Program Name
  • Product Description
  • Date of Renewal
  • Message Frequency
  • Msg&Data Disclaimer
  • Help Instructions
  • Stop Instructions
  • Customer Support Info

Subscription Confirmation Message

  • Sponsor/Program Name
  • Product Description
  • “Subscription Renewed”
  • Message Frequency
  • Msg&Data Disclaimer
  • Help Instructions
  • Stop Instructions
  • Customer Support Info

Why is this a carrier requirement?
Users must be fully aware of their subscriptions at all times, as they are being charged standard message and data rates to receive SMS from mobile campaigns

Stop Message

Stop MT

  • Sponsor/Program Name
  • “You have been unsubscribed”
  • “You will no longer receive messages”
  • Customer Support Info

Multi-Program Stop MT

Just as with the help menu mentioned earlier, a short code supporting multiple programs must offer a multi-program stop response. However, this must be a single message with no menu involved. If a user is subscribed to multiple programs, he or she should receive with the following message flow:

Stop MO:

STOP

Stop MT:

Sponsor/Program Name: You have been unsubscribed from all programs on ##### and will no longer receive messages. Support Email or Toll-Free#

The multi-program stop response must contain:
  • Sponsor/Program Name*
  • “You have been unsubscribed from all programs”
  • The short code number to which the STOP MO was sent
  • Customer Support Info

*Note: “Powered by [Sponsor Name]” is no longer acceptable. Multi-program short codes should be capable of differentiating between end-users based on which programs they are opted into, in order to deliver the appropriate stop response.

Existing Program Code Change Notification Message

If you are switching the code you use for your campaign, whether it is from long code to short code, or one short code to another, you must notify existing subscribers of the change.

This notice must:

  • Come from the code to which the end-user originally opted in
  • Include opt-out instructions
  • Be the last message sent to the end-user from the program on the old short code

Code Change Notification MT:

Sponsor & Program Name: Future content will be sent from #####. Reply STOP to cancel.

Message Components & Verbiage

Now that you’ve seen the components required in your message flow(s), you may be looking to understand better the logic behind them and the acceptable incarnations of each piece in its spelling and punctuation.

This is the name of the company or brand providing the mobile service. It should be the first word in each SMS.

Note: Sponsor and Program Name must lead every message in the entire program

*NuTech Latest: Get the top tech stories of the week! 1msg/week. Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. 18001234567.*

In the example above, Nutech is the sponsor name.

Why is this a carrier requirement?
Mobile users receive a wide variety of business-to-consumer messages: credit card balance, retail offers, school notices, appointment reminders, transportation statuses, threshold alerts, employee notifications. Having a standard format for identifying the program and its source at the beginning of the message provides a better user experience

Program Name

This is the name of your service, and is also referred to as the “product disclosure.” It should appear following the sponsor name in your texts.

NuTech Latest: Get the top tech stories of the week! 1msg/week. Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. 18001234567.

While the full program name is actually “NuTech Latest” in this example, that is only acceptable because “NuTech” is also the sponsor name. “Latest” tells us what type of service is being provided. While “News” is a common program name, carriers are looking for something more intuitive. “Latest” gives the end-user an idea of what they’re receiving–the buzz about tech.

Why is this a carrier requirement?
Mobile users receive a wide variety of business-to-consumer messages: credit card balance, retail offers, school notices, appointment reminders, transportation statuses, threshold alerts, employee notifications. Having a standard format for identifying the program and its source at the beginning of the message provides a better user experience

Additionally, many sponsors have multiple programs. Including both sponsor and program name clarifies the program from which the message has been sent.

Product Description

In many occasions, simply giving the program name is not enough of a description for the end-user to understand fully what sort of messages they are receiving. Because of this, a product description should be added. This can be a short sentence, or even just a couple of words.

NuTech Latest: Get the top tech stories of the week! 1msg/week. Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. 18001234567.

In this example, this sentence makes it clear to the user what they will accomplish by receiving these messages.

Why is this a carrier requirement?
The product description helps set proper user expectations for the types and purposes of the messages they will be receiving.

Message Frequency

For One-Time Programs, this will manifest as the number of messages given out to the end-user in response to each message they send to the service.

For many applications, the message frequency cannot be precisely predetermined by the content provider. In this case, the frequency included in the message content should relate to the expected message frequency under normal circumstances.

CTIA audit standards accept “1 msg/query” and “Msg frequency varies by user” (the word “frequency” cannot be abbreviated).

NuTech Latest: Get the top tech stories of the week! 1msg/week. Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. 18001234567.

For subscription programs, the “2msg/query” would be replaced by the number of messages given periodically over time by the program without prompt, such as “3msg/week.”

Why is this a carrier requirement?
The message frequency lets mobile subscribers know how often they should expect messages from the program to which they’ve subscribed.

Msg&Data Disclaimer

Commonly abbreviated to “Msg&Data rates may apply” or “Msg&DataRatesMayAply,” this phrase notifies the customer that text message correspondence with your mobile program is not free, and instead costs the same amount of money as correspondence with, say, another consumer. Remember that the phrase “standard rates may apply” is no longer accepted. The most common wording is shown below in the example.

NuTech Latest: Get the top tech stories of the week! 1msg/week. Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. 18001234567.

The replacement of the ampersand with the word “and” spelled out in full, and the removal of one p from the word “apply” are also accepted.

Why is this a carrier requirement?
End-users must be aware that they may be charged by the carrier to receive and send messages associated with the program.

HELP/STOP Instructions

HELP and STOP keywords must work in the native language of the program as well as English. These pieces can appear in one sentence, or separated.

NuTech Latest: Get the top tech stories of the week! 1msg/week. Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. 18001234567.

Please note that the replacement of “for” and “to” with “4” and “2” is not accepted.

Why is this a carrier requirement?
The mobile end-user must be able to receive support for their mobile program, or stop their mobile program at any time.

Customer Support Info (Support Email or Toll-Free#)

This piece required in the Initial/Opt-in MT as well as the final Opt-out MT. Although the HELP menu itself provides additional customer support information, the quick contact info is outside of the HELP menu.

NuTech Latest: Get the top tech stories of the week! 1msg/week. Msg&DataRatesMayAply. Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel. 18001234567.

The Customer Support Info can appear as either a toll-free number or a support e-mail address. Typically, two of the three are accepted in a given message, while the third is not. For example, you need either a URL or a toll-free number in your initial opt-in response, but either an e-mail or toll-free number in your opt-out as due to recent changes, the URL is no longer accepted. However, regardless of which two are accepted, only one is required in any given message–you need not include both.

Why is this a carrier requirement?
The quick contact info provides a means for the user to understand the terms and conditions of the program or receive direct, live support if needed.

Character-Saving Recommendations

Required compliance verbiage can take up a large number of your available 160 characters. To help make the most of the characters at your disposal, read below for tips on keeping messages short and for acceptable abbreviations to words and terms found in your needed compliance language.

Msg & Data Rates May Apply

It is perfectly compliant to leave out the spaces between words in this required component, but be sure to capitalize the beginning leter of each word so that it is conspicuous and legible, like so:

  • Msg&DataRatesMayAply

Removing the spaces will save you five characters!

Reply HELP for help, STOP to cancel

While the presence of these two items is looked at individually as-needed, if both are required in a message, combine the sentence as you see here.

Abbreviated Program Name

Your sponsor and program name are required in all of your messages—don’t have them any longer than they need to be. Always look for the shortest possible manifestation of this tag. For example, instead of “Company Alerts,” it says “Company Alrt.”

Simplified Phone Number Format

Ex: 18001234567 Leave the punctuation out of your phone numbers. Smart phones will still be able to click to dial, and you won’t eat up extra characters. Depending on your use-case, you may even want to leave off the country code.

Cut Some Punctuation

Leaving off the last period in your text doesn’t hurt your end-user’s understanding of the sentence. Look through your messages for erroneous commas and periods.

In-Message Abbreviations

Compliant Abbreviations for Required Language

  • And -> &
  • Apply -> Aply
  • Message -> Msg
  • Message and Data Rates May Apply -> Msg&DataRatesMayAply
  • Month -> mo, mth
  • Number (One, Two, Three) -> # (1, 2, 3…)
  • Per -> /
  • Query -> Qry

Unacceptable Abbreviations

Unlike the recommended abbreviations above, there are certain compliance words which must remain spelled in full. The abbreviation of the following words is not recommended and may render you non-compliant with some carriers.

  • Cancel
  • For
  • Help
  • Reply
  • Stop
  • To
  • You

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.

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