Permission marketing? We’ve all heard of it. This is the story of what happens when businesses decide it’s okay to bend those rules.

It’s also a warning that businesses are still liable for laws their third party vendor breaks.

A national pizza chain is being sued for 250 million for sending out more than 500,000 text messages to customers who did not opt into the service. These customers received up to 16 messages in a row in the middle of the night.  If found in breach, that’s a penalty of $500 to $1500 per text.

The Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991 mandates that businesses require opt-in permissions before texting customers. This calls to mind the CAN-SPAM Act that governs email marketing where opt-in/out options are also required.

Confused? While text messages are a powerful marketing tool and enjoy some of the highest open rates at over 90%, it’s really important to avoid being on the wrong side of the law when it comes to . How so? Ensure customers who receive promotional messages actually did opt in for the service. Equally important is providing them with an option to unsubscribe should they change their minds about receiving these messages.  For anyone still struggling to grasp the concept, Seth Godin’s Permission Marketing is a groundbreaking read.

Here’s another case, where the judge ruled that the provision of a mobile phone number was tantamount to an opt-in where promotional messages are concerned.

Marketers could also consider engaging message automation capabilities to reach out to customers via email or text only if a certain customer action triggers it. That ensures customer communications are both customized and personalized which goes a long way to enhancing customer service.

While a penalty of $250 million dollars makes a pretty deep dent in budgets, what is far worse is the loss of customer’s trust, goodwill and damage to brand reputation.

Now that’s a pretty steep price to pay.