By Elyse Desmarais on February 23, 2016
In July 2015, the FCC clarified U.S. regulations around automatic text messaging by releasing its TCPA (Telephone Consumer Protection Act) Omnibus Declaratory Ruling (We wrote a helpful blog post outlining these new regulations and offering our best understanding of how SMS surveys comply with these new regulations. But we are software engineers, not lawyers, so this is not legal advice!). A large part of these new regulations covers issues surrounding consent to text your survey participants and very specific survey opt-out language that needs to be communicated to your participants. In today’s post, we will focus on this opt-out language and how Instant Census handles the communication of these instructions to survey participants for our customers.
Instant Census customers don’t have to worry about handling opt-out procedures in welcome messages because we take care of it from start to finish. Our standard welcome message is automatically sent to all survey participants upon opting into our surveys and covers 2 of the following requirements outlined by the FCC:
Identifies who is sending the messages (e.g. "This is the _ Survey Center")
Tells the respondent how to opt out ("Text STOP at any time to opt out.")
On the survey participant end, the message would look something like this:
The first sentence of this message can be customized to include the name of the organization sending out the survey, but we suggest keeping the remaining language in place to ensure compliance with regulations. For example, the welcome message could say:
"Welcome to the Survey Research Center of Massachusetts. Text ‘STOP’ to end messages at any time. Standard msg & data rates may apply."
If we’re sending respondents a survey every week, Instant Census only sends participants this informational intro message once, at the start of the first survey; we don’t re-send it every week.
The FCC requires that if a respondent sends a message with just the word “STOP,” you must stop texting them immediately. You are allowed to send a single confirmation message to tell the participant they’ve been removed from the survey.
This is another requirement Instant Census handles automatically for customers. When a survey participant texts STOP, Instant Census sends one opt-out confirmation message and then immediately ceases texting that person’s number. STOP is not case-sensitive, so STOP, Stop, and stop all do the same thing. People who have opted-out can opt back in to Instant Census by texting START.
The Omnibus Ruling also announced that people must be able to opt-out “through any reasonable means.” (paragraph 55) This part is especially vague, but it appears that if a person calls, emails, writes a letter, or asks in-person to be opted-out of automatic text messages, you must stop sending them text messages.