Sep 11, 2023
7
mins read

SMS in India: Compliance and Regulations

Product Manager at Message Central
SMS in India

Key Takeaways

  1. SMS has a track record of being one of the most effective channels of communication and the same can be observed in the growth of SMS traffic in India
  2. There are two types of SMS - Transactional and Promotional SMS
  3. There are certain guidelines of sending transactional and promotional SMS like sender ID requirements, DND number compliance, timing restriction etc.
  4. A set of best practices should be followed for sending SMS like obtaining consent, including CTA, personalization etc.
  5. There are very strict penalties for non compliance. Thus, one should always select the right SMS API provider

SMS has become an essential tool for businesses to reach and engage with their customers. In India, commercial SMS traffic has grown to over 40 billion messages per month.

commercial-SMS-traffic-in-india-infographic-by-message-central

With its high open rates and instant delivery, bulk SMS has proven to be an effective and efficient way to communicate important information and promotional offers.

However, with the rise of spam and unsolicited messages, regulatory authorities in India have implemented guidelines for bulk SMS service providers to ensure the privacy and protection of consumers. In this comprehensive guide, we will explore the compliance and regulations surrounding bulk SMS in India, helping you navigate the landscape and optimize your SMS marketing campaigns.

1. Introduction to SMS

Bulk SMS refers to the practice of sending a large number of SMS messages to a group of recipients simultaneously. It is widely used by businesses to deliver important information, notifications, alerts, and promotional offers to their customers. With its cost-effectiveness and wide reach, bulk SMS has become a popular marketing tool for businesses across various industries

2. Types of SMS

In India, there are two main types of bulk SMS: transactional SMS and promotional SMS. Understanding the differences between these two types is crucial for compliance with regulatory guidelines.

Transactional SMS

Transactional SMS is used to send critical and important information to customers. These messages are usually triggered by a customer's interaction with a business and may include order confirmations, shipping updates, OTPs (One-Time Passwords), and service alerts. Transactional SMS should not contain any promotional content and must adhere to strict regulations.

Promotional SMS

Promotional SMS is used to send marketing messages, offers, discounts, and promotional content to customers. These messages are intended to generate sales and drive customer engagement. Promotional SMS must comply with specific regulations to protect consumers from unsolicited marketing messages.

3. Regulatory Authorities in India

The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) is the primary regulatory authority governing the SMS marketing industry in India. TRAI is responsible for establishing and enforcing guidelines to protect consumers and ensure fair practices in the telecommunications sector. Compliance with TRAI regulations is mandatory for all businesses that engage in bulk SMS marketing in India.

4. Guidelines for Sending Transactional SMS

To comply with TRAI regulations, businesses must adhere to specific guidelines when sending transactional SMS messages.

Timing Restrictions

Unlike promotional SMS, transactional SMS can be sent at any time, 24x7. This flexibility allows businesses to deliver critical information to their customers promptly.

DND Number Compliance

Transactional SMS can be sent to customers who have registered their numbers on the Do Not Disturb (DND) list. However, it is essential to note that these messages should not contain any promotional content.

Sender ID Requirements

When sending transactional SMS, businesses must use a unique sender ID that represents their brand. The sender ID consists of nine characters in the format XY-ZZZZZZ, where XY represents the access provider and ZZZZZZ represents the identifier of the company or organization sending the SMS.

Content Template Registration

Before sending transactional SMS, businesses must register their content templates with the telecom service providers. Content templates define the structure of the message content, including fixed and variable parts. This registration ensures compliance with TRAI regulations and helps prevent misuse of transactional SMS for promotional purposes.

5. Best Practices for Transactional SMS

To ensure best practices for sending transactional SMS, businesses should follow these guidelines:

  • Provide accurate and up-to-date information in the SMS messages.
  • Include relevant details such as order numbers, delivery dates, and transactional references.
  • Avoid using transactional SMS for promotional purposes, as this may result in penalties and non-compliance.
  • Regularly update and review content templates to ensure compliance with changing regulations.

6. Guidelines for Sending Promotional SMS

Sending promotional SMS requires strict adherence to TRAI regulations. Businesses must follow specific guidelines to ensure compliance and protect consumers' interests.

Timing Restrictions

Promotional SMS can only be sent between 9 AM and 9 PM, Monday through Sunday. SMSes sent outside this time range will be queued and delivered the following day.

DND Number Compliance

Businesses are prohibited from sending promotional SMS to customers who have registered their numbers on the Do Not Disturb (DND) list. It is essential to regularly update and maintain a list of DND numbers to avoid sending unsolicited messages.

Sender ID Requirements

When sending promotional SMS, businesses must use a unique sender ID consisting of eight characters in the format WX-YZZZZ. This sender ID helps customers identify the brand or organization sending the promotional messages.

Content Template Registration

Similar to transactional SMS, businesses must register their content templates for promotional SMS. This registration ensures compliance with TRAI regulations and helps prevent misuse of promotional SMS for transactional purposes.

Opt-out Instructions

To comply with TRAI regulations, businesses must provide customers with the option to opt-out from receiving promotional SMS. Including clear opt-out instructions in each message allows customers to unsubscribe and avoid further promotional messages.

7. Best Practices for Promotional SMS

To ensure best practices when sending promotional SMS, businesses and platforms providing Bulk SMS service should consider the following:

  • Obtain explicit consent from customers before sending promotional SMS.
  • Provide valuable and relevant content to engage customers and drive conversions.
  • Personalize promotional messages based on customer preferences and past interactions.
  • Regularly update and clean your SMS contact list to remove opt-out numbers and maintain a high-quality database.

8. DLT Registration and Compliance

DLT (Distributed Ledger Technology) registration is mandatory for businesses that send SMS to customers in India. The DLT platform ensures the safety and security of customer data and helps prevent misuse of SMS services. Businesses must register on the DLT platform to comply with TRAI regulations and continue sending SMS to their customers.

9. Growing Your SMS List

Building a healthy and engaged SMS list is crucial for successful SMS marketing campaigns. To grow your SMS list while maintaining compliance, follow these best practices:

Opt-in Consent

Obtain explicit consent from customers before adding them to your SMS list. Clearly communicate the purpose and frequency of your SMS communications and provide an opt-in mechanism for customers to subscribe.

Opt-out Option

Include an opt-out option in every SMS message you send. Customers should have the choice to unsubscribe from your SMS list at any time by replying with a specific keyword or following the provided instructions.

10. Penalties for Non-compliance

Non-compliance with TRAI regulations can result in severe penalties and legal consequences for businesses. Penalties for violating SMS regulations range from fines of INR 25,000 to INR 2,75,000 and may include blacklisting of the sender's SMS services for up to two years. It is crucial for businesses to understand and adhere to the guidelines to avoid such penalties and maintain a positive brand reputation.

11. Conclusion

In conclusion, complying with the regulations and guidelines for bulk SMS in India is essential for businesses to protect consumer privacy, maintain trust, and avoid legal consequences. By understanding the different types of SMS, adhering to timing restrictions, registering content templates, and providing opt-in and opt-out options, businesses can effectively leverage bulk SMS as a powerful marketing tool while ensuring compliance with TRAI regulations. By following best practices and staying updated on regulatory changes, businesses can create successful SMS marketing campaigns and foster strong customer relationships.

Remember, choosing a reliable and compliant bulk SMS service provider in India like Message Now is crucial to ensure seamless delivery and compliance with all regulations. So, start sending bulk SMS today and reap the benefits of this powerful marketing channel!