There are good and bad apples in every industry. To protect consumers against the bad ones, the wireless carriers set up a group called the CTIA to enforce SMS marketing practices that are in the best interests of the consumer. To do this, the CTIA carries out audits on SMS marketing programs. If an SMS marketing program is found to be in violation, it is suspended until the issue has been resolved. To make sure your SMS marketing program passes a CTIA audit, it’s important you’re in compliance with their CTIA Short Code Monitoring Handbook.



There’s a lot of confusion and misinformation in SMS marketing about laws, compliance and best practices. In our experience, the majority of the confusion comes from businesses not knowing the difference between the CTIA, the FCC and the MMA and the role each of them plays in SMS marketing.



As we mentioned at the beginning of this guide, the CTIA is an organization that was created by the wireless carriers to enforce proper SMS marketing practices to make sure they’re in the best interests of the consumer. The CTIA guidelines are very specific about text message marketing. They tell you exactly what must be included in an advertisement for an SMS program (message and data rates, help and stop commands, message frequency, links to terms and conditions, privacy policies, etc.) as well as what must not be included.

Since the CTIA guidelines aren’t law, you can’t be sued for violating them, but you do run the risk of having your SMS program shut down.

To view the CTIA Short Code Monitoring Handbook, click here.



While the CTIA guidelines aren’t law, the TCPA (developed by the FCC) is federal law. No business has ever been sued for not following CTIA guidelines, but countless brands have been sued under the TCPA, including large brands such as Jiffy Lube and Papa John’s.

Unlike the CTIA, which is very specific, nothing in the TCPA specifically targets text message marketing. In fact, the TCPA doesn’t mention text messaging at all. Text messaging was only recently mentioned by the FCC in a clarification it issued regarding whether or not the TCPA applies to it (it does). There’s no mention in the TCPA of message and data rates or what must be included in a text message when a consumer texts the word “HELP” to your short code.

The TCPA is all about businesses receiving permission from the consumer to text message them, the specifics of how this permission can be obtained, and what is allowed after permission has been granted.


MMA (Mobile Marketing Association)

Lastly, there’s the Mobile Marketing Association (MMA), which releases its own SMS marketing best practices document that is very similar to the Mobile Commerce Compliance Handbook the CTIA puts out. The MMA best practices for SMS marketing aren’t law, like the TCPA is, and they aren’t enforced by anyone, like the CTIA does with its rules, so these best practices add more confusion to the industry than clarification.