SMS Wine Marketing Compliance – 3 Simple Rules to Follow

By: Bryan St. Amant, Founder & CEO of VinterActive

  With the latest research showing SMS wine marketing is performing 32-times better than email, many DTC wineries are now eager to use text messaging to grow their business.

The great news is wine lovers are especially interested in staying in touch with their favorite brands using text messaging, and a new crop of SMS wine marketing solutions are now available.

  But industry awareness of the compliance rules all U.S. wineries must follow still seems to be a problem. Misinformation spread by dubious sources and rumors on social media now puts some wineries at risk of severe consequences.

  So in this article, we’ll demystify SMS wine marketing compliance so your winery can delight your customers and confidently profit from text messaging.

  DISCLAIMER: This advice is offered for informational purposes only and is neither intended as nor should be substituted for consultation with appropriate legal counsel and/or your organization’s regulatory compliance team.

What Regulations Apply to SMS Wine Marketers?

  Text marketing is regulated primarily by the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA). Unlike email marketing, these regulations are strictly enforced by the FCC.

  We don’t want to scare you, but failing to follow the law can have serious consequences. For example, in 2012, Papa John’s agreed to pay over $16 million to settle a class-action lawsuit against them for failure to get proper consent before texting their customers.

  In addition to the TCPA, wine marketers are also regulated by the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association (CTIA) which prohibits sending text messages about regulated products to consumers who aren’t of legal age. For SMS wine marketers accepting credit cards, you should also be familiar with the payment card industry’s PCI-DSS standards for securing payment card data.

  PCI-DSS isn’t the law, but it governs your relationship with credit card processors. And if you don’t comply with these standards, your business can be subject to costly fines and lose the ability to accept credit cards.  The good news is that SMS wine marketing compliance isn’t complicated! But it is mandatory to comply with three simple rules:

1)  Express written consent

2)  Age verification

3)  Payment card security

Express Written Consent

  Complying with the TCPA requires any business sending automated texts to obtain “express written consent” before sending any text messages.

That means you can’t just upload the names of wine club members, purchase a list of phone numbers, or assume you can text customers because you already have an “existing business relationship.”  If anyone tells you otherwise, you might ask them if they’ll foot your legal bills if they’re wrong.

You might be thinking, what’s “express written consent,” and how is it different than “written consent”?

  When you sign up for a service like Gmail, you agree to their terms and consent to paragraphs of language you probably didn’t read. But that type of consent isn’t good enough for text marketing — you can’t bury consent to receive texts in a privacy policy or a hard-to-read user agreement.

  By federal law, you must provide clear and conspicuous disclosure of what consumers are consenting to and who they’re consenting to get it from. The rules about asking customers to opt-in to text messaging depend on whether you’re sending transactional or promotional messages.

  Obtaining customer consent can be simple if you only send transactional messages containing information necessary to use your products or services. By adding a prompt to your checkout process that says, “provide your mobile number for shipping and delivery updates,” customers consent when they enter their digits.

  But the key term here is “necessary.”

  If your customers ask for SMS updates about an order, you can’t assume they’re opting in to receive texts about future releases or upcoming events. In the eyes of the FCC, these messages are promotional and require your opt-in message to include specific elements:

•    Who will be texting them.

•    What type of messages they’ll receive, and how often they’ll receive them.

•    Confirmation that consent to receive text messages isn’t required for purchase.

•    Instructions on how consumers can stop receiving your automated texts.

•    A link to your privacy policy and a disclaimer about data/message rates that may apply.

  Fortunately for wine marketers, our industry is already familiar with the importance of compliance. And SMS wine marketing solutions now offer built-in consent forms that comply with the law.

Age Verification

  In addition to the TCPA’s regulations about obtaining express written consent, wine marketers are subject to the Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association’s (CTIA) prohibition against sending text messages to consumers who aren’t of legal age.

  These rules apply to any business promoting products or services associated with sex, hatred, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco, otherwise known as SHAFT. CTIA’s guidelines aren’t the law, but all wine marketers should carefully follow them for two reasons. 

  First, if someone lodges a legitimate complaint that you’re sending text messages to anyone younger than 21, any reputable text marketing service will quickly suspend your account. And in our view, U.S. wineries have a moral obligation to market their products only to adults over 21.

  So what are SMS wine marketers to do? 

  The answer is to use “age gates” whenever you offer consumers the chance to join your SMS list. Most carriers accept a wide range of age gates as long as they protect you from sending text messages to minors.

Examples of popular age gates currently in use include:

•    Websites that require visitors to confirm they’re over the age of 21 before entering.

•    An automated data collection system that requires text marketing subscribers to enter their DOB or confirm they’re over the age of 21.

•    A wine commerce system that includes DOB data confirming the age of your subscribers.

•    Signage in your tasting room that makes it clear your text marketing offers are only available to adults over the age of 21.

Payment Card Security

  All SMS wine marketers accepting credit/debit cards should know never to encourage customers to transmit card data via text because it’s not secure and violates the agreements you have with your payment processor. For over a decade, all merchants accepting payment cards have been required to comply with the payment card industry’s data security standards, also known as PCI-DSS. Complying with these standards offers your winery an essential element of protection in the case of a security breach. 

  Merchants that don’t comply with PCI-DSS guidelines then suffer a breach that exposes payment card data may be liable for fines of several hundred dollars for each card compromised.  So it doesn’t take many customers for non-compliant wineries to incur fines that might put them out of business.

Astonishingly, some sources in the wine industry still encourage merchants to put themselves at risk by using non-compliant methods to collect payment card data.

  If anyone tells you they have a way for your winery to see the full 16-digits of a payment card online, they’re inviting you to violate the terms of your merchant agreement by offering a solution that doesn’t comply with PCI-DSS.

  As tempting as it might seem to collect payment card data you can copy and paste, ask yourself why you don’t have access to this same data through your online store or your payment card processor’s portal? The answer is that it puts you out of compliance with PCI-DDS, it’s not secure, can hurt your customers, and exposes your business to unnecessary risk.

  Fortunately, there’s an easy way to use text messaging to invite customers to update payment card data in a way that complies with PCI-DSS requirements. Since all modern commerce systems have secure pages where customers can update their card data, sending a link to your commerce page is the best way to use SMS messaging to help customers change their payment information.

The Bottom-Line on SMS Wine Marketing Compliance

  Compliance with the law and industry standards should already be familiar to any wine marketer. After all, we’re selling a highly regulated product.

Although SMS marketing has its own unique rules, compliance issues shouldn’t keep your customers from staying in touch with you via text.

  Now that you understand the three most important compliance rules that apply to SMS wine marketing, your business can profit too.

Happy Selling!

About the Author

  Founder & CEO of VinterActive, Bryan St. Amant, is a pioneer in developing preference-based direct marketing and its successful application in the wine industry. His award-winning work has been featured in books, magazines, and seminars.

VinterActive is located in Windsor, California. For more information please call or visit thier website…707-836-7295; vinteractive.com

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