You may not have heard of 10DLC policies, but if your agency sends text messages to your clients, you may be seeing changes or even rate increases from the texting platform you use. That’s because wireless carriers like AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon are implementing new policies that allow them to regulate and charge additional fees to platforms that send business texts through local 10-digit phone numbers. Some carriers have already begun charging fees, and others plan to start blocking unregistered businesses from sending messages as soon as 10/01/21.
We’ll walk you through what 10DLC policies are and what changes you might be seeing. This article is meant to give an overview of our understanding on the topic at the time of this post, so any policies discussed here are explained to the best of our knowledge and may be subject to change by the respective party. Look for the latest updates from us on 10DLC here.
What is A2P messaging?
A2P stands for application-to-person messaging, meaning a business that uses an application to send text messages to a consumer (business texting). Wireless carriers (like AT&T, Verizon, etc.) classify A2P messaging differently from P2P texting (person-to-person texting like you use with your friends and family), due to the high volume of texts being sent. A2P texts must be sent through special channels or routes that can handle higher throughput levels (a higher number of texts sent per minute).
What is 10DLC?
10DLC stands for 10-digit long code, which is a traditional 10-digit phone number that has a local area code. 10DLC is a messaging channel with throughput levels suitable for text message campaigns by businesses, and is sanctioned by wireless carriers for A2P messaging.
While 10-digit numbers were originally created for P2P landline use, many businesses now use them for A2P texting instead of toll-free numbers or short codes (abbreviated 5 or 6 digit numbers designed to send large volumes of text messages). This has caused wireless carriers to create specific 10DLC routes for business texting with higher throughput caps.
When we talk about 10DLC here, we’re referring to these routes, which are the method of sending text messages, rather than the phone numbers themselves.
What are the changes to business texting on 10DLC?
In December 2018, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) declared text messaging an information service. This classifies text messaging differently from phone calls and allows wireless carriers to set their own rules, pricing, and policies for A2P messaging without being subjected to the same regulations that apply to telecommunications. Then, in 2019 the Cellular Telecommunications Industry Association (CTIA), a trade association of phone service providers, officially designated short codes, toll-free numbers, and 10DLC routes as A2P messaging traffic.
Following these rulings on business texting, wireless carriers began creating their own policies for A2P messages sent on 10DLC routes. Regulating 10DLC traffic allows wireless carriers to better protect consumers from spam, telemarketing, and unwanted messages by requiring brands (e.g. independent agencies) to declare the nature of the text campaigns they intend to send and inflicting penalties for non-compliance. Regulation also provides some benefits to businesses, such as a higher throughput for business texting (more messages sent per minute) and more reliable deliverability.
However, this self-regulation also allows each carrier the freedom to charge fees to businesses as they see fit. Because businesses have customers across multiple wireless carriers, they’re forced to comply with and be held accountable to the 10DLC policies, usage-based fees, and penalties for every wireless carrier. These fees and penalties can stack up and become costly.
Some wireless carriers are already enforcing higher usage-based fees for 10DLC routes, and others will start throttling or blocking 10DLC traffic for non-compliant entities starting on 10/1/21. Here’s what 10DLC policies look like, and what wireless carriers may require from platforms that send texts for businesses.
What do wireless carrier 10DLC policies include?
While every wireless carrier’s 10DLC program is different, most include one, some, or all of the following elements:
- Per-message surcharges
- Brand and campaign registration
- Registration fees
- Non-compliance fines and penalties
Wireless carriers are starting to charge additional per-message fees for incoming and outgoing 10DLC messages from business texting platforms like HawkSoft Text Messaging. While most carriers previously charged per-message surcharges for A2P texting, the fees are now higher in order to provide for the higher throughput needed for 10DLC routes. Many wireless carriers are already enforcing these higher per-message surcharges today, including Verizon, AT&T, T-Mobile/Sprint, and US Cellular.
Brand and campaign registration
The biggest change happening with 10DLC programs is that some wireless carriers are requiring more information about each brand (agency) and campaign (type of message they send), such as the industry they’re in, the name of the business, and how opt-ins and opt-outs will be handled. This identifies the business sending text messages and protects consumers from spam and unwanted messages.
AT&T and T-Mobile are requiring brands (i.e., your agency) to register your company and your campaigns with The Campaign Registry (TCR), a sanctioned third party that works with carriers, messaging companies, and industry partners to establish common standards for 10DLC messaging. In many cases, the texting platform will coordinate registration of brands and campaigns for the businesses using their platforms. Independent agencies will need to provide the required information to register their brand and campaign type. See a complete list of the information required by TCR here.
TCR will also charge fees to texting platforms for each brand (agency) and campaign they have registered. In addition, wireless carriers may charge their own campaign registration fees on top of TCR fees. Here’s the information we have so far on the types of registration fees the TCR and wireless carriers plan to charge (these are subject to change by TCR and wireless carriers).
Non-compliance fines and penalties
Wireless carriers may also impose penalties and fines if texting platforms and the businesses using them do not comply with their 10DLC policies. Most commonly, wireless carriers can block or refuse to send text messages that do not comply with their policies. Currently, AT&T is expected to begin throttling unregistered 10DLC traffic and T-Mobile is expected to begin blocking unregistered traffic starting 10/1/21.
In addition, carriers may fine the texting platform if any of their brands (agencies) and associated campaigns are not complying with policies. For example, T-Mobile is expected to enforce non-compliance fees and penalties beginning 10/1/21.
How might 10DLC policies affect agencies?
While wireless carriers are enforcing their 10DLC policies most directly on business texting platforms, this will have ramifications for the agencies that use these platforms. Here are some impacts agencies may see in the near future:
- Additional information will be required for brand and campaign registration
- Rates for business texting may increase
- Business texting platforms may transition to using toll-free numbers
- Opt-in and opt-out processes may be enforced instead of recommended
Additional information will be required for brand and campaign registration
Because business texting platforms are required to register every brand (agency) and their associated campaigns with TCR, they will need to collect the required information from each agency. Texting platforms will likely provide online forms to agencies that will pass the collected information to TCR (this is the route taken by HawkSoft Text Messaging). Because the texting platform will be held liable for any agencies who are not in compliance, platforms may disable texting services for agencies who do not provide the needed brand and campaign registration information.
Rates for business texting may increase
Because business texting platforms will be charged new per-message surcharges, campaign registration fees, and non-compliance fines by carriers, they may increase their rates for texting services in order to cover the higher costs.
Business texting platforms may transition to using toll-free numbers
Toll-free phone numbers are not currently subject to the same 10DLC regulations as local 10-digit phone numbers on 10DLC routes. Because of this, some business texting platforms may elect to transition agencies onto toll-free numbers instead of dealing with the additional regulations, fees, and liability for 10DLC. This would change the number that the agency texts from. However, it is possible that carriers may begin to implement policies and fees for toll-free numbers as well in the future, as they have for 10DLC.
Opt-in and opt-out processes may be enforced instead of recommended
Opt-in is required from a customer before a business, including an agency, can legally text them (learn more about the types of consent required for text messaging in our blog on TCPA best practices). Currently, many business texting platforms leave it to the agency to manage the opt-in process. With more strict 10DLC policies in place from wireless carriers, including heavy fines for non-compliance, texting platforms may decide to require agencies to send an opt-in message to a customer before texting them. Alternatively, platforms may allow agencies to continue to collect opt-ins outside the platform but require them to provide proof of opt-in.
Keeping current on 10DLC
We hope this information helps your agency understand upcoming changes you may see from the business texting platform you use, whether it’s requests for additional information, higher rates in order to cover additional fees from wireless carriers, or stricter requirements for opt-in processes. As a technology partner for agencies, HawkSoft wants you to understand the context behind these changes and how they may affect your agency.
Get more business texting resources from HawkSoft
See best practices for business texting and download our TCPA Compliance Checklist for recommendations on opt-in, messaging, and opt-out practices.
Since 1995, HawkSoft is a leader in management systems for independent insurance agencies that want effective workflows and a delightful experience for staff and policyholders. HawkSoft offers the following promise to insurance agents: your investment in HawkSoft will pay for itself in the first year. Learn more about HawkSoft’s unique father-and-son story here, or request a demo to learn more about our agency management system.
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