The Silence of Opting Out

Angela Cheong
Dec. 11, 2012 by Angela Cheong

A number of marketers looking to provide more value to their customers through cross-channel communications have unexpectedly fallen onto the wrong side of the law. The punishment?  Class-action suits for sending customers an opt-out confirmation after receiving opt-out requests – a deemed violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

“No fair!” We hear them cry. “We’re just following best practice guidelines!”

Signed into law in 1991, the TCPA was meant to govern the etiquette of telemarketers in a vastly different landscape – one where telephones and faxes ruled the direct marketing world. Back then, SMS texts were not a part of the picture. Certainly, they did not play the defining role they do in modern lives now.

With the high open rates of SMS at almost 98% and more importantly, response rates from 15% to 30% (versus 5% for email), marketers simply cannot afford not to tap into this channel when implementing a cross-channel communication program.  This is especially so since 98% of SMS are opened within 5 seconds.

Imagine a geotargeting cross-channel campaign that is triggered when potential customers wander past a brick-and-mortar store. These customers might receive an instant text from the store offering 20% discount if they buy something within the hour. With low latency rates and consumers reading the SMS texts within 5 seconds, sales could well sky rocket! (Especially during the holiday season when everyone is desperately shopping for gifts.)

But what happens if customers choose not to receive such alerts? One would think that an opt-out confirmation after such a request is mere politeness. Certainly not the gateway to a lawsuit! Fortunately, the Federal Communications Commission has finally ruled in the favour of marketers to make opt-out confirmations a best practice under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.

So the next time, a business decides to send an opt-out confirmation text in response to such a request, they can rest easy that they won’t have to face financial ruin for it.

In the light of the fact that industry associations like the Chamber of Commerce and the Better Business Bureau have long established opt-out confirmations as a best practice, the decision of the TCPA is not just welcomed, but way overdue.

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