Best Practices for Toll-Free Messaging (A2P) Use Cases
The following article is meant to help Bandwidth customers follow best practices for toll-free (A2P) messaging. All messaging traffic is required to comply with relevant laws and regulations, including (but not limited to) the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Please note, this article does not constitute legal advice.
Highlights for A2P use cases and best practices over toll-free phone numbers
The following list includes best practices and guidelines for different toll-free messaging use cases.
1. Get consent from your users
Make sure users explicitly say they want messages from you.
The single most important practice is ensuring you have accurate, reliable opt-ins specific to the type of messages you’re sending consumers. Generally, opt-out rates are consistently low when you have obtained reliable and clear consumer opt-in consent. At any time, Bandwidth or other wireless carriers may request evidence of documented opt-in consent for a particular message sent from you (or your customers).
2. Send an opt-in confirmation
Let users know they have been opted in to receive messages from you.
Upon successful opt-in by a mobile subscriber, an opt-in confirmation message should be sent to the mobile subscriber number. Per Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) guidelines, “A single opt-in confirmation message displaying information verifying your customer’s enrollment in the identified program and describing how to opt out” should be sent.
3. Processing STOP keywords
Be sure your users can opt out of receiving messages.
Consumer opt-in and opt-out functionality is enforced at the network level via the STOP and UNSTOP keywords. This functionality cannot be disabled for service providers or message senders. Message senders have obligations to process the opted-out consumer phone number so it is removed from all distribution lists and is logged as “opted out” from SMS communications. This ensures that future messages are not attempted and withdrawal of consumer consent is honored.
Examples of valid opt-out messages:
For toll-free SMS, there is no need for you to send an acknowledgment to the consumer. The opt-out confirmation message returned to a consumer is generic from your network provider and gives instructions on how to opt back into service again with the message sender’s phone number. Below is an example of an opt-out confirmation message sent from your network provider (like Bandwidth):
EXAMPLE: “NETWORK MSG: You replied with the word STOP which blocks all texts sent from this number. Text back UNSTOP to receive messages again.”
4. Processing UNSTOP keywords
Allowing users to opt back in after opting out at the network level.
A consumer can opt back in at any time to receive messages by texting the keyword “UNSTOP” to a message sender’s phone number. The keyword is not case sensitive and triggers an opt-in only when sent as a single word, with no punctuation or leading spaces (any trailing spaces are trimmed). If the consumer uses the opt-in keyword within a sentence an opt-in is not triggered.
Examples of valid opt-ins:
The message returned to a consumer is generic and informs the consumer they can start two-way texting with the message sender’s phone number again.
EXAMPLE: “NETWORK MSG: You have replied UNSTOP and will begin receiving messages again from this number.”
5. Only use a single number for campaigns
Don’t spread your campaigns over several numbers.
Using a single number for both text and voice calls is not only a best practice, it’s also a better overall user experience. Your customers can call and text the same number. But more importantly, you should avoid spreading messages across many source phone numbers, specifically to dilute reputation metrics and evade filters. This is referred to as “snowshoeing” and can result in your content being blocked. If your messaging use case requires the use of multiple numbers to distribute “similar” or “like” content, please discuss with your Bandwidth rep (or other carrier rep).
6. Identify your brand
Include your company name in the messages you send.
Your application, service, or business name should be included in the content of the body of your message(s).
EXAMPLE: “[Your Business Name]: You have an appointment for Tuesday, 3:00PM. Reply YES to confirm, NO to reschedule. Reply STOP to unsubscribe.”
7. Use a single domain for URLs in your messages
Any campaign URLs should be from a single, specific domain.
Each campaign should be associated with a single web domain owned by you, the customer. Although a full domain is preferred, a URL shortener may be used to deliver custom links.
You should avoid common, public or shared domain shorteners. Below is a list of some examples of common URL shorteners you should avoid:
Additional reading to help you stay compliant
The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) is a trade organization that represents the wireless communications industry in the United States. They create and maintain lots of great resources to help understand the complex telecom environment.
To learn more about industry guidelines, check out CTIA Best Practices.
You can also check out the CTIA Short Code Monitoring Handbook. Though it is about short codes, the same basic principles and rules apply.
Still have questions? Open a ticket on the Bandwidth Support Center.
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