SMS and the law (UK)

There are two main pieces of legislation covering the use of SMS in the UK, it is your responsibility to ensure you are compliant with all UK laws and those relevant in the country you are sending to.

For other countries it is your responsibility to ensure that you are compliant with the relevant local legislation which may differ from that indicated here.

  • Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003
  • Data Protection Act 1998 This legislation is enforced by the Information Commissioner and a breach of these laws is a criminal offence.

Complying with this legislation is relatively straightforward, as long as you follow a few basic rules. Most of the legislation is around the use of SMS for advertising and concerns marketing consent - which is whether or not you have permission to contact an individual or organisation to promote your brand, goods or services.

  • If you are marketing to existing customers, you can text them to promote any of your products and services which are similar or related to those they already have with you. These customers should though be given the opportunity to opt-out of getting such messages.
  • If you are marketing to individuals who are not customers, i.e. prospects, then the rules are much stricter - you will need their express permission to do so - they must opt-in.
  • If you are marketing to businesses, even if you do not have a relationship with them, they don't need to give you consent, but you do need to give them the ability to opt-out.

Whether you are using SMS for marketing purposes, or just as part of your day-to-day service communications with your customers, staff and suppliers, there are still some general rules which you must abide by. These are common sense and will actually ensure your SMSs are more favourably received - after all what business wants waste money or annoy its customers, staff or suppliers ?

  • Collect data lawfully and fairly and keep it accurate and up to date
  • Ensure that the data is held confidentially and transferred securely
  • Make sure that the message clearly identifies the sender and their contact details
  • When a customer or company states that they wish to opt-out, act upon this promptly
  • Ensure that the data is not kept for longer than it is needed

The Information Commissioner's Office is a great place to get more information and to ensure that you are correctly registered to process personal data and comply with marketing laws which apply SMS.

Information Commissioner's Office:

Privacy and Electronic Communications (EC Directive) Regulations 2003

Data Protection Act 1998

Important Note - The information above is only a guide, and is only for the UK. The information does form not legal advice, clients and non-clients should seek their own legal advice and appropriate directions for the country where they are carrying out messaging activities.

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