UK SMS regulations: the do’s and don’ts of SMS marketing

Topic: Marketing, Retail

SMS marketing offers businesses a cost-effective way to reach customers quickly and directly. But, if you’re trying to reach a UK market, it’s important to remember there are strict SMS regulations and laws around using the platform for commercial purposes.

We break down UK SMS regulations and share our best practices for keeping your business compliant. Here’s what you need to know:

The laws you need to follow

In order to protect consumers, the laws around SMS marketing in the UK are strict, and businesses must observe regulations in order to stay legally compliant.

The Data Protection Act

Following Brexit, the latest version of The Data Protection Act (DPA) came into force at the end of January 2020, and protects the personal information and data of those living in the UK while also regulating how that information is stored and used. 

GDPR compliance

GDPR is the most comprehensive privacy and security legislation in the world and is designed to offer UK and EU residents’ more control over their personal data. There are six instances in which it is legal to process personal data under GDPR, two of which can be applied to marketing activities:

  1. The data subject has given you unambiguous consent to process their information
  2. You have a legitimate interest to process someone’s data, though the ‘fundamental rights and freedoms of the data subject’ always override your interests
PECR

The Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) offers consumers privacy rights when it comes to electronic communications such as marketing texts, calls and emails, cookies and location data. These laws “[recognise] that widespread public access to digital mobile networks and the internet opens up new possibilities for businesses and users, but also new risks to their privacy.”

The do’s and don’ts of SMS marketing

When it comes to SMS marketing, it’s crucial that you’re not just following UK SMS regulations, but also best practices too. 
Do
Do: offer customers the choice to opt-out of SMS marketing messages

Due to GDPR and PECR regulations, it’s now a legal requirement to offer customers a simple way to remove their consent. For SMS marketing, include an opt-out message in every text to remind customers they can unsubscribe at any time by simply asking them to respond to messages using the word ‘STOP’ or ‘UNSUBSCRIBE’. Don’t forget to also send your customers a follow-up text message that confirms this. 

don't
Don’t: send messages to customers without their consent

Just because you have your customers’ contact information, doesn’t mean you have the right to use it. In fact, texting people without permission is actually illegal. You need to gain consent through an opt-in process that clearly states that customers who sign up are consenting to receive messages from you. A simple way to do this is to use signup forms that require a specific action, such as ticking a checkbox. Be mindful though that these forms cannot be pre-selected or have opt-in as a default setting. 

Do
Do: use SMS marketing tools to automate your messages

SMS marketing tools allow you to automate your messages and set up workflows depending on specific customer actions, which means instant communication with your customers. Similarly, it saves manual labour hours while allowing you to see exactly what is going out, and when, while also helping to minimise mistakes. 

don't
Don’t: forget to include a privacy policy

Due to UK regulations, companies must have consent to market directly to their customers, and subscribers need to understand exactly what they’re signing up for with a clear description and a full privacy policy. This should contain a specific SMS policy that explains what information is gathered, how data is used and a communications clause that details what users can expect and why.

Do
Do: offer value with your messages

There’s nothing worse than receiving endless messages with no real point to them, and nobody wants to interact with a business that’s overly salesy. Make sure that every SMS message you send is clear and to the point while offering customers something of value. Similarly, while it can be tempting to use slang and abbreviations when you only have 160 characters to work with, this can easily confuse your customers and cause them to opt-out, so stick to plain English instead.

Don’t forget about your Call-To-Action either as this will encourage users to move through the customer journey and follow the steps you want them to take.

don't
Don’t: spam your customers at all hours of the day

Sending your messages out at the wrong time can cause you to lose even the most loyal of customers. SMS marketing is all about timing, so stick to business hours – between 9am and 6pm – where possible.

Similarly, as we’re constantly bombarded with marketing messages it’s important you’re not simply adding to the noise. Instead, try to only send a maximum of three to four messages per month. 

Do
Do: clearly identify yourself in every message

The UK government states that emails or text messages must clearly indicate:

  • who you are
  • that you’re selling something
  • what the promotions are, and any conditions

It’s important to introduce yourself, not only for brand recognition, but also so your customers know that your message isn’t spam. That way, they are more likely to engage and interact with your marketing efforts. 

Get in touch with us now to find out how our services can help you better connect with your customers. 

Author Avatar
James Bosley

I'm James, Marketing Manager for the UK and Ireland at Esendex. I have experience in creating technical, informative, and educational content across a range of industries. I'm passionate about helping brands build better relationships with their customers through effective and engaging communication. I hope you find our blog helpful, and feedback is always welcome!