Messging Service Policy and Best Practice Guidelines #

Last updated: September 1, 2021 #

This Messaging Service Policy applies to SMS and MMS messaging channels. We all expect that the messages we want to receive will reach us, unhindered by filtering or other blockers. An important step YakChat and our customers can take to make that expectation reality is to prevent and eliminate unwanted messages. Toward that end, we strive to work with our customers so that messages are sent with the consent of the message recipient, and that those messages comply with applicable laws, communications industry guidelines or standards, and measures of fairness and decency.

This principle is central to YakChat’s Acceptable Use Policy.

This Messaging Service Policy is provided for informational purposes only, and YakChat makes no warranties within it. The Policy Guidelines are not inclusive or exhaustive and are subject to change at YakChat’s discretion, at any time. YakChat reserves the right in its sole discretion to remove or deny any traffic which does not comply with these Policy Guidelines.

1. YakChat Messaging #

All messaging transmitted via YakChat’s platform – regardless of use case or phone number type (e.g., long code or toll-free) – is treated as Application-to-Person (A2P) messaging. All A2P messages originating from YakChat are subject to this Messaging Policy, which covers rules and /or prohibitions regarding:

  • Consent ( “opt-in”).
  • Revocation of Consent (“opt-out”).
  • Sender Identification.
  • Messaging Usage.
  • Filtering Evasion; and
  • Enforcement.

This policy applies to all customers who use YakChat’s messaging channels.

2. Consent / Opt-in #

What is Proper Consent?

Consent can’t be bought, sold, or exchanged. For example, you can’t obtain the consent of message recipients by purchasing a phone list from another party.

Aside from two exceptions noted later in this section, you need to meet each of the consent requirements listed below. You must require all your users to adhere to these same requirements.

Consent Requirements

  • Prior to sending the first message, you must obtain agreement from the message recipient to communicate with them – this is referred to as “consent”, you must make clear to the individual they are agreeing to receive messages of the type you’re going to send. You need to keep a record of the consent, such as a copy of the document or form that the message recipient signed, or a timestamp of when the customer completed a sign-up flow.
  • If you do not send an initial message to that individual within a reasonable period after receiving consent (or as set forth by local regulations or best practices), then you will need to reconfirm consent in the first message you send to that recipient.
  • The consent applies only to you, and to the specific use or campaign that the recipient has consented to. You can’t treat it as blanket consent allowing you to send messages from other brands or companies you may have, or additional messages about other uses or campaigns.
  • Proof of opt-in consent should be retained as set forth by local regulation or best practices after the end user opts out of receiving messages.

Alternative Consent Requirements: The Two Exceptions

While consent is always required and the consent requirements noted above are generally the safest path, there are two scenarios where consent can be received differently.

1. Contact initiated by an individual

If an individual sends a message to you, you are free to respond in an exchange with that individual. For example, if an individual texts your phone number asking for your hours of operation, you can respond directly to that individual, relaying your open hours. In such a case, the individual’s inbound message to you constitutes both consent and proof of consent. Remember that the consent is limited only to that particular conversation. Unless you obtain additional consent, don’t send messages that are outside that conversation.

2.  Informational content to an individual based a prior relationship

You may send a message to an individual where you have a prior relationship, provided that individual provided their phone number to you, and has taken some action to trigger the potential communication, and has not expressed a preference to not receive messages from you. Actions can include a button press, alert setup, appointments, or order placements. Examples of acceptable messages in these scenarios include appointment reminders, receipts, one-time passwords, order/shipping/reservation confirmations, drivers coordinating pick up locations with riders, and repair persons confirming service call times.

The message can’t attempt to promote a product, convince someone to buy something, or advocate for a social cause.

Periodic Messages and Ongoing Consent

If you intend to send messages to a recipient on an ongoing basis, you should confirm the recipient’s consent by offering them a clear reminder of how to unsubscribe from those messages using standard opt-out language (defined below). You must also respect the message recipient’s preferences in terms of frequency of contact. You also need to proactively ask individuals to reconfirm their consent as set forth by local regulations and best practices.

Figure 1: Types of Messaging Content and Associated Consent Principles

CONVERSATIONAL INFORMATIONAL PROMOTIONAL
Conversational messaging is a back-and-forth conversation which takes place via text. If a Consumer texts a business first and the business responds quickly with a single message, then it is likely conversational. If the consumer initiates the conversation and the business simply responds, then no additional permission is expected. Informational messaging is when a consumer gives their phone number to a business and asks to be contacted in the future. Appointment reminders, welcome texts, and alerts fall into this category because the first text sent by the business fulfills the consumer’s request. A consumer needs to agree to receive texts for a specific informational purpose when they give the business their mobile number. Promotional messaging is a message sent which contains a sales or marketing promotion. Adding a call-to-action (e.g., a coupon code to an informational text) may place the message in the promotional category. Before a business sends promotional messages, the consumer should agree in writing to receive promotional texts. Businesses which already ask consumers to sign forms or submit contact information can add a field to capture the consumer’s consent.
First message is only sent by a Consumer. Two-way conversation. First message is sent by the consumer or business. One-way alert or two-way Conversation. First message is sent by the business. One-way alert.
Message responds to a specific request. Message contains information. Message promotes a brand, product, or service. Prompts consumer to buy something, go somewhere, or otherwise take action.
Implied Consent: Express Consent: Express Written Consent:
If the consumer initiates the text message exchange and the business only responds to each consumer with relevant information, then no verbal or written permission is expected. The consumer should give express permission before a business sends them a text message. Consumers may give permission over text, on a form, on a website or verbally. Consumers may also give written permission. The consumer should give express written permission before a business sends them a text message. Consumers may sign a form, check a box online, or otherwise provide consent to receive promotional text messages.

Figure 1: Types of Messaging Content and Associated Consent Principles

CONVERSATIONAL
Conversational messaging is a back-and-forth conversation which takes place via text. If a Consumer texts a business first and the business responds quickly with a single message, then it is likely conversational. If the consumer initiates the conversation and the business simply responds, then no additional permission is expected.
First message is only sent by a Consumer. Two-way conversation.
Message responds to a specific request.
Implied Consent:
If the consumer initiates the text message exchange and the business only responds to each consumer with relevant information, then no verbal or written permission is expected.
INFORMATIONAL
Informational messaging is when a consumer gives their phone number to a business and asks to be contacted in the future. Appointment reminders, welcome texts, and alerts fall into this category because the first text sent by the business fulfills the consumer’s request. A consumer needs to agree to receive texts for a specific informational purpose when they give the business their mobile number.
First message is sent by the consumer or business. One-way alert or two-way Conversation.
Message contains information.
Express Consent:
The consumer should give express permission before a business sends them a text message. Consumers may give permission over text, on a form, on a website or verbally. Consumers may also give written permission.
PROMOTIONAL
Promotional messaging is a message sent which contains a sales or marketing promotion. Adding a call-to-action (e.g., a coupon code to an informational text) may place the message in the promotional category. Before a business sends promotional messages, the consumer should agree in writing to receive promotional texts. Businesses which already ask consumers to sign forms or submit contact information can add a field to capture the consumer’s consent.
First message is sent by the business. One-way alert.
Message promotes a brand, product, or service. Prompts consumer to buy something, go somewhere, or otherwise take action.
Express Written Consent:
The consumer should give express written permission before a business sends them a text message. Consumers may sign a form, check a box online, or otherwise provide consent to receive promotional text messages.

3. Identifying Yourself as the Sender #

Every message you send must clearly identify you (the party that obtained the opt-in from the recipient) as the sender, except in follow-up messages of an ongoing conversation.

4. Opt-Out #

The initial message that you send to an individual needs to include the following language: “Reply STOP to unsubscribe,” or the equivalent using another standard opt-out keyword.

Examples (not exhaustive) of valid opt-out messages:

  • STOP including variations such as Stop or Stop
  • STOPALL
  • Quit
  • Cancel
  • Unsubscribe
  • End
  • Opt me out

Individuals must have the ability to revoke consent at any time by replying with a standard opt-out keyword. When an individual opts out, you may deliver one final message to confirm that the opt-out has been processed, but any subsequent messages are not allowed. An individual must once again provide consent before you can send any additional messages.

5. High Opt-Out Rate #

Message senders who receive high volumes of opt-outs could be flagged and indicative of poor sending practices. In the case that the daily opt-out rate is 5% or higher, the toll-free carrier or other carriers may monitor the campaign. The carrier may reach out for campaign and opt-in details and/or suspend services of high opt-out rate flagged campaigns at its discretion, not to be unreasonably exercised. “Daily opt-out rate” is the total number of subscribers who received a campaign’s SMS divided by the number of opted out subscribers who received a campaign’s SMS in a 24-hour period.

6. Maintaining and Updating Consumer Information #

Message senders should retain and maintain all opt-in and opt-out requests in their records to ensure future messages are not attempted (in the case of an opt-out request) and consumer consent is honored to minimize unwanted messages. Message senders should process phone deactivation files regularly (e.g., daily) and remove any deactivated phone numbers from any opt-in lists.

7. Privacy and Security #

Message senders should address both privacy and security comprehensively in the design and operation of messaging campaigns. YakChat is not responsible of liable for any security or breaches experienced by the message sender.

8. Maintain and Conspicuously Display a Clear, Easy-to-Understand Privacy Policy #

Message senders should maintain and conspicuously display a privacy policy easily accessed by the consumer (e.g., through clearly labeled links) that clearly describes how the message sender may collect, use, and share information from consumers. All applicable privacy policies should be referenced in and accessible from the initial call-to-action. Message senders also should ensure that their privacy policy is consistent with applicable privacy law and their treatment of information is consistent with their privacy policy.

9. Implement Reasonable Physical, Administrative, and Technical Security Controls to Protect and Secure Consumer Information #

Message senders should implement reasonable security measures for messaging campaigns that include technical, physical, and administrative safeguards. Such safeguards should protect consumer information from unauthorized access, use, and disclosure. Message senders should conduct regular testing and monitoring to ensure such controls are functioning as intended.

10. Conduct Regular Security Audits #

Message senders should conduct either a comprehensive self-assessment or third-party risk assessment of privacy and security procedures for messaging campaigns on a regular basis and take appropriate action to address any reasonably foreseeable vulnerabilities or risks.

11. Content: Usage Limitations #

Content We Do Not Allow

The key to ensuring that messaging remains a great channel for communication and innovation is preventing abusive use of messaging platforms. That means we never allow some types of content on our platform, even if our customers get consent from recipients for that content. YakChat’s Acceptable use Policy prohibits sending any content that is illegal, harmful, unwanted, inappropriate, objectionable, confirmed to be criminal misinformation, or otherwise poses a threat to the public, even if the content is permissible by law. Other prohibited uses include:

  • Anything that is illegal in the jurisdiction where the message recipient lives. Examples include, but are not limited to:
  • Messages related to cannabis are not allowed in the United States as federal laws prohibit its sale, even though some states have legalized it. Similarly, messages related to CBD are not permissible in the United States, as certain states prohibit its sale. YakChat defines a cannabis message as any message which relates to the marketing or sale of a cannabis product, regardless of whether or not those messages explicitly contain cannabis terms, images, or links to cannabis websites.
  • Prescription Medication. Offers for prescription medication that cannot legally be sold over the counter are prohibited in the United States.
  • Hate speech, harassment, exploitative, abusive, or any communications that originate from a hate group.
  • Fraudulent messages.
  • Malicious content, such as malware or viruses.
  • Any content that is designed to intentionally evade filters.

Age and Geographic Gating

If you are sending messages in any way related to alcohol, firearms, gambling, tobacco, or other adult content, then more restrictions apply. In addition to obtaining consent from every message recipient, you must ensure that no message recipient is younger than the legal age of consent based on where the recipient is located. You also must ensure that the message content complies with all applicable laws of the jurisdiction in which the message recipient is located or applicable communications industry guidelines or standards.

You need to be able to provide proof that you have in place measures to ensure compliance with these restrictions.

12. A2P-10DLC #

As of 2021, all businesses that send A2P messages on a 10DLC phone number are now required by U.S. mobile carriers to register their brand with the carrier’s central registration hub, The Campaign Registry (TCR), owned  Kaleyra. Non-registered campaigns are subject to blocking on the  carriers’ networks.

Since all SMS messages that pass through YakChat are considered A2P traffic by the carriers, [because they’re sent through an application (YakChat) on behalf of your business, and not directly from an individual] YakChat customers must register their company and brand information for A2P-10DLC, together with campaign use cases. This can be accomplished by visiting the YakChat customer portal and following the online instructions.

Failure to comply with these 10DLC guidelines may result in any of the following:

  • Downgrade in message service class
  • Suspension or termination of specific campaign, 10DLC numbers or message sender
  • Unidentified or unknown message senders may result in 10DLC P2P class of service antispam policies being used.
  • Message classes and policies may be adjusted with notice, based on observed messaging campaign characteristics, such as subscriber complaints and unsubscribe requests.
  • U.S. Carrier fines and charges.

13. Messaging Policy Violation Detection and Prevention Evasion #

YakChat’s customers may not use our platform to evade YakChat’s or a telecommunications provider’s unwanted messaging detection and prevention mechanisms. Examples of prohibited practices include:

  • Content designed to evade detection. As noted above, we do not allow content which has been specifically designed to evade detection by unwanted messaging detection and prevention mechanisms. This includes intentionally misspelled words or non-standard opt-out phrases which have been specifically created with the intent to evade these mechanisms.
  • Snowshoeing. We do not permit snowshoeing, which is defined as spreading similar or identical messages across many phone numbers with the intent or effect of evading unwanted messaging detection and prevention mechanisms.

How We Handle Violations

When we identify a violation of these principles, where possible, we will work with customers in good faith to get them back into compliance with this policy. However, to protect the continued ability of all our customers to freely use messaging for legitimate purposes, we reserve the right to suspend or remove access to YakChat’s platform for customers or customers’ end users’ that we determine are not complying with the Messaging Policy, or who are not following the law in any applicable area or applicable communications industry guidelines or standards, in some instances with limited notice in the case of serious violations of this policy.

In short, violations of the Messaging Policy may result in one or more of the following resolutions taken by YakChat or carrier:

  1. Blocking of individual messages
  2. Blocking of phone numbers
  3. Repeated violation may result in termination of messaging or other network services
  4. Suspension or removal of access to the YakChat platform

14. Resources #

The following industry resources may be helpful as a message sender starts to craft messaging content. Messages should follow guidance from these resources, otherwise messages may be blocked:

CTIA Messaging Principles and Best Practices

FTC Truth in Advertising

MMA Best Practices

M3AAWG Best Practices

M3AAWG Mobile Messaging Best Practices for Political Programs

Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) Omnibus Declaratory Ruling (FCC 15-72)

How do you feel about these instructions?