Why do I need to register my company and its phone numbers? A primer on SMS compliance

In the United States, a series of laws and regulations were passed in 2019 and 2020 to make telecommunications and, more importantly, messaging over SMS more secure and trusted. To do this the Mobile Network Operators (MNO), Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile, etc., have come together to create a central place to store data on who is using their networks and for what purpose. This effort has created an organization that is known as the Campaign Registry.

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Following suit, ZipWhip, a subsidiary of Twilio, Inc and the company that manages all text messaging traffic sent over Toll-Free Numbers, has also put together a database to collect information on the companies sending text messages over its managed network.

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The goal of these companies is to create databases of businesses sending text messages so that the MNOs can verify that messages being sent to their users are coming from trusted business sources, and not spam or bots. These databases will include identifying information for the businesses sending messages so that, if there are any issues, the MNOs, the Campaign Registry, and ZipWhip know who to reach out to.

To create the databases, the Campaign Registry and Zipwhip are working with internet-based telecommunication providers, known as communication service providers (CSP), to help set up protocols on how their users can be registered. The CSPs then pass the info to approve the use case. Once approved (often instant), the company and its phone numbers are entered into the database with id numbers. These numbers are then attached to all outbound communication so that the receiving MNOs can check it on their end and let the message through.

Why?

Why do I have to register? You have to register to verify your business and the messages you are sending. This is how the MNOs can verify that your phone number(s) and the messages being sent by it are legitimate. With a verified business, you can send messages across their networks with improved deliverability and at faster speeds.

Improved Deliverability

By registering your company and phone numbers, you will greatly increase the likelihood that your customers will get your message. In 2019 and 2020, the MNOs stepped up their filtering of suspected spam and fraud messages. This meant that a message you sent may have come back with a Carrier Violation error. However, they also began "silently" blocking messages by not responding with an error and so you may never have known that your customer did not get your message without directly asking them. The idea then is that by registering your company and your phone numbers, your messages will then be pre-verified and will reach your customers.

Faster Messaging

There is also another side effect in that carriers will allow registered users to send messages faster. Right now, you can only send 1 SMS segment (the 160 character messages) every second over normal, 10 digit phone numbers or 3 SMS segments every second over Toll Free Numbers. This means long messages or announcements to many customers may take a while to send. Registered and approved use cases will also be granted higher messaging rates. The exact rate will vary depending on your use case, but speeds can increase up to 30 segments per second.

Ok, I'm sold, what do I need to do?

To get registered, we will need information about your organization and each department (phone number) on Textline.

Organization

The first level of required information is about who is messaging:

  • Legal Company Name 
  • “Doing Business As” (DBA) or Brand Name, if different from legal name
  • Country of Registration
  • What type of legal form is the organization?
    • Publicly Traded
    • Private Company
    • Charity / Non-Profit Organization
    • Government Organization
  • Tax Number/ID/EIN  (not required for Toll Free Numbers)
  • Full Address
  • Website 
  • Stock Symbol (required if a publicly-traded company)
  • Stock Exchange
  • Vertical/industry
  • Company Size
  • Support E-mail
  • Support Phone Number

Again this information is needed to ensure that you will not abuse messaging practices. In the past abusers have gotten caught and just spring up with a new fake name and identification, but including information like a physical address and tax information makes that much harder.  You can fill out this information in Textline here.

Department (campaign)

Next, we need the following information about each of the Departments communicating over SMS on Textline: 

  • Use case
  • Vertical/industry
  • Message content and attributes
  • Example messages/templates
  • Opt-In Information

You can fill out this information for each department in Textline here.

Use cases

Your use case is what you are using that department for. This lets the MNOs know what type of messaging to expect. Here’s a sample list of the use cases that you can select from, the use case options will be different for those using Toll-Free Numbers:

  • 2FA: Any authentication, verification, or one-time passcode that is used for logins.
  • Account Notifications: Standard notifications for account holders and team members.

  • Customer Care: All customer interaction, including account management and customer support.

  • Delivery Notifications: Information about the status of the delivery of a product or service.

  • Fraud Alert Messaging: Messaging regarding potential fraudulent activity on an account.

  • Higher Education: Messages sent on behalf of colleges, universities, school districts, and other education institutions.

  • Marketing: Any communication with marketing and/or promotional content. This includes sales and special offers.

  • Polling and voting: Requests for surveys and voting for non-political arenas.

  • Public Service Announcement: An informational message that is meant to raise the audience's awareness about an important issue.

  • Security Alert: A notification that the security of a system, either software or hardware, has been compromised in some way and there is an action you may need to take.

  • Charity: Communications from a registered charity aimed at providing help and raising money for those in need. Includes 501(c)(3) registered charities, but NOT religious organizations.

  • Emergency: Notification services designed to support public safety / health during natural disasters, armed conflicts, pandemics and other national or regional emergencies.

  • Political: Part of organized effort to influence decision making of specific groups. Only federal campaigns.

Message Content & Attributes

To help comply with regulations, we will also need to know if there are certain scenarios that your messaging may surround. 

For 10 digit long code (normal) phone numbers, these scenarios include:

  • Contact Opt-In: Indicates whether you are collecting and processing consumer opt-ins. This is required.
  • Contact Opt-Out: Indicates whether you are allowing customers to opt-out of messages and preventing you from messaging them in the future. This is required and is a feature of Textline.
  • Contact Help: Indicates whether you have implemented message reply providing customers on how they can contact the message sender after they reply with the “HELP” keyword. This is required and is a feature of Textline.
  • Embedded Link: Messages include links of any kind. Public URL shorteners (bitly, tinurl) are not allowed.
  • Embedded Phone Number: Messages include phone numbers.
  • Affiliate Marketing: Indicates whether affiliate marketing is being used or was used in the construction of the contact list for this department.
  • Direct Lending or Loan: Check if you will be sending messages related to direct lending or other loan arrangements.
  • Age-Gated Content: Check if you will be sending messages that require any age-gated content as defined by Carrier and CTIA guidelines. This is required for messages related to alcohol, smoking, firearms, or anything sexual in nature.

For businesses using Toll-Free Numbers, the messaging attributes are:

  • Sending Any Messages to Canada: Are you sending any text messages to Canada? Do you operate a business in Canada or you are in the United States but chat with Canadian tourists? If yes, check this box.
  • Primarily Sending Messages to Canada: If the majority of your messages will be going to contacts with Canadian phone numbers, you will want to select this. Most likely your business is located in Canada or you are focusing on Canadian contacts.
  • Advertising or Promotion: Are you using your Toll-Free Number to send advertisements or promotional marketing, check this box.

Example Messages

To verify that your use case is what you say it is, we also ask for example messages or message templates that you would be sending. Even if you do not expect to have standard messages, try coming up with a few of your most common scenarios, especially if you are going to use the department for Announcements, to help the registry judge your validity. If you send messages with variables, use an example of what that variable may translate to instead of the code for the variable. To help you formulate these messages, we have a few examples of our own, based on a few of the use cases above:

Account Notifications

Hi Brad, your account has an overdue balance. Please text us back so that we can set up a payment plan.


Please text us back when you can, there is a hold on your account and we need to speak with you to clear it.


Your test results have come in, please call or text us back so that we can discuss them with you.


Hi Thomas, The office will be closed tomorrow for a deep clean. Sorry for the late notice. Your appointment will need to be rescheduled. Text us back at your earliest convenience.


Hi Mary Ann, Please text us when you are in the parking lot so that we know when you are here. Once you’re here, please stay in your car and we will let you know when the doctor is ready for you and you can come on in.

 

Customer Care

Hi Ryan, I’m sorry to hear that you’re experiencing issues with our website, can you expand a little more about what you’re experiencing?


Hi Ryan, Thanks for the explanation. Can you please try clearing the cookies in your browser? If you don’t know how to do that, let me know what browser you are using and I can send over a guide.


Hi, great to hear that you’re interested in our service! Please let us know more about your request so that we can schedule a pickup time.


We got your request, please text us a photo of the appliance you need fixed so that we can connect you with the right specialist.


Sorry to hear your order was damaged. Can you send us a photo so that we can verify the damage and send a replacement?

 

Delivery Notifications

Hi Hannah, We wanted to let you know that the replacement windshield you ordered is en route. We will let you know once it’s in store so you can come on in to get it installed.


Ricardo, Your order has been picked. We are waiting for a driver to pick it up and will let you know once it’s on the way!


We’ve hit a little bump and there’s a delay in your order. We will keep you updated and let you know once it’s back on track.


Hi Angelina, Please text us when you are in the parking lot and what car you are in so that we know when you are here. Once you’re here, we will bring your order out to you!


Congratulations, your shipment has been delivered! Please try on your items and text us back if there are any problems.

 

Marketing

Hi Todd, we are excited to let you know that our store is open extended hours tomorrow. You can come in anytime between 8am and 10pm to get your shopping done!


Hi Jim, we are excited to let you know we are having a clearance tomorrow on widgets! Come on in anytime between 10am and 6pm to stock on up.


Hey Pam, you wanted to know anytime our doo-dads were on sale, well they are on sale 50% off this week! Come on in or head to our website to place an order.


Larry and Sasha are running a special class this week to help you start the new year off right! Text us back to get signed up.


We just got a new shipment of thing-a-ma-bobs!  Come and get them while they’re in stock.

 

Opt-In

The last bit of info required is about how you got permission to text your customers. Federal laws require that you have previously obtained permission from your contacts to send them text messages before you do so, so the MNOs are asking for you to describe how you are doing that and to include an image or screenshot of any forms, websites, or processes that shows how you are doing that. Here's a few examples

 

Description

Customers come to Thing-a-mabobs Etc and enter their phone numbers on a tablet at the cash register. After entering their phone numbers, they then check a box on the screen to opt into text messages from our team about future stock updates and any sales we may be having.


After placing an order on our website, we ask customers to enter their phone number if they would like text updates on their order status. Customers also text us if they need help with any order.


Patients write their phone number on our intake form and tick a box if they would like us to text them updates about their appointment and any other visit related info.

 

Upload Verification

(examples to come)

 

Once you have completed the registration process, Textline will submit the details so that your company and your phone numbers can be verified by the MNOs.  If you ever switch phone providers or move away from Textline, you will need to re-register your numbers.

 

Need more help?

If you have any more questions or concerns regarding compliance and Textline, feel free to message us at +1 (415) 849-4349 or email us at support@textline.com