SMS Messages Violation of Twilio's Terms of Service?

13 replies
A lot of warriors are using Twilio for SMS marketing so I hope someone can help me answer this question -- is it really a violation of their TOS? Certainly seems so based on this, from their website:
The following behaviors are not permitted on Twilio: Sending mass marketing or bulk messaging using Twilio long code phone numbers

Mobile carriers do not allow marketing SMS messages, whether solicited or not, to be sent on long codes (10-digit numbers).

Marketing messages may only be sent using shortcodes (special 5 or 6-digit numbers). If you're interested in a dedicated US shortcode please contact our sales team.

Mass marketing restrictions vary from country to country. Twilio does not support mass marketing on US or international phone numbers.

https://www.twilio.com/help/faq/sms/...t-using-twilio
I know there are a LOT of products and services built around using Twilio long codes for SMS so what gives? I'm not sure if marketers don't know, don't care, or what... or does Twilio need to update their website?

The reason I'm asking -- I want to use Twilio for SMS but this definitely concerns me...
#messages #service #sms #terms #twilio #violation
  • Profile picture of the author joe ferdinando
    It is prohibited "Using Twilio Services to harvest or otherwise collecting
    information about others, including email addresses or phone numbers." Also, in regards to short codes vs long codes Twilio says "Mobile carriers do not allow marketing SMS messages, whether solicited or not, to be sent on long codes (10-digit numbers)

    The solicited or not part is what gets everyones attention. Twilio would love to sell you short codes and keywords! The Telephone consumer protection act was created because people where scraping numbers and sending sms text without permission like email spam but to mobile phones!

    But we are not soliciting we are a permission based marketing system that people use to opt in to be a member and join our list and give permission. Ensure that information is in your sms terms of service, CYA Cover your A**!

    People are giving us permission and we are abiding under the TCPA and CanSpam act laws!
    Even if you are not in the USA or Canada where these laws are strong you just need to be legal by using a Permission based system!

    In order for us to legally send an sms text message to a long code we must get
    permission and we do! You have nothing to worry about.

    TWillio keeps a record of every sms text incomming and out going so if anyone
    claims they did not opt in or give permission you can go into twilio acct and
    copy the signup opt in text for your record. every text should have an out out
    link or how to details, every text should have the business name, and the first
    text out should of had a message they they needed to confirm there opt in and that they did agree to the sms terms of service or proper verbiage!

    all that makes you legal!

    See my Mobile Marketing ebook - Its FREE and no opt ins just go to my site at Ferdiworks.com and click on FREE products and services and take a look at Mobile marketing ebook it includeds the TCPA and Can Spam act laws and how to be in Legal parameters!

    Originally Posted by geolocal View Post

    A lot of warriors are using Twilio for SMS marketing so I hope someone can help me answer this question -- is it really a violation of their TOS? Certainly seems so based on this, from their website:
    The following behaviors are not permitted on Twilio: Sending mass marketing or bulk messaging using Twilio long code phone numbers

    Mobile carriers do not allow marketing SMS messages, whether solicited or not, to be sent on long codes (10-digit numbers).

    Marketing messages may only be sent using shortcodes (special 5 or 6-digit numbers). If you're interested in a dedicated US shortcode please contact our sales team.

    Mass marketing restrictions vary from country to country. Twilio does not support mass marketing on US or international phone numbers.

    https://www.twilio.com/help/faq/sms/...t-using-twilio
    I know there are a LOT of products and services built around using Twilio long codes for SMS so what gives? I'm not sure if marketers don't know, don't care, or what... or does Twilio need to update their website?

    The reason I'm asking -- I want to use Twilio for SMS but this definitely concerns me...
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    • Profile picture of the author Aaron Doud
      Originally Posted by geolocal View Post

      A lot of warriors are using Twilio for SMS marketing so I hope someone can help me answer this question -- is it really a violation of their TOS?
      Short Answer: Yes
      Long Answer: Clearly not enforced so not really
      Longer Answer: See below

      Originally Posted by joe ferdinando View Post

      It is prohibited "Using Twilio Services to harvest or otherwise collecting
      information about others, including email addresses or phone numbers." Also, in regards to short codes vs long codes Twilio says "Mobile carriers do not allow marketing SMS messages, whether solicited or not, to be sent on long codes (10-digit numbers)

      The solicited or not part is what gets everyones attention. Twilio would love to sell you short codes and keywords! The Telephone consumer protection act was created because people where scraping numbers and sending sms text without permission like email spam but to mobile phones!

      But we are not soliciting we are a permission based marketing system that people use to opt in to be a member and join our list and give permission. Ensure that information is in your sms terms of service, CYA Cover your A**!

      People are giving us permission and we are abiding under the TCPA and CanSpam act laws!
      Even if you are not in the USA or Canada where these laws are strong you just need to be legal by using a Permission based system!

      In order for us to legally send an sms text message to a long code we must get
      permission and we do! You have nothing to worry about.
      You are correct that "legally" he would have nothing to worry about. But TOS are above and beyond that law. So he still has something to worry about but the question is how much worry.

      Let's look at the sentences in the TOS that matters and discuss why it is there yet not enforced.

      Originally Posted by Twilio TOS

      Mobile carriers do not allow marketing SMS messages, whether solicited or not, to be sent on long codes (10-digit numbers).

      Marketing messages may only be sent using shortcodes (special 5 or 6-digit numbers). If you're interested in a dedicated US shortcode please contact our sales team.

      Mass marketing restrictions vary from country to country. Twilio does not support mass marketing on US or international phone numbers.
      First off we see a few things.
      1. Carriers, not the law, don't allow marketing messages on long codes
      2. Twilio offers a shortcode service
      3. These restictions vary from country to country (ie some carriers in other countries are fine with marketing from long code)
      4. Twilio does not support marketing on long codes even where allowed internationally.

      So why is it against the TOS to use long codes for marketing?

      1. Carriers are against it. And they could if they so choose to block all SMS from Twilio. So Twilio must make it clear in their TOS that it is not allowed so they can terminate such accounts (in reality they don't seem to do this). Thus if they need to terminate an account they can and it shows the carriers that they are against it so if a Carrier complains or threatens them they can close one or more accounts but not risk their whole service
      2. Shortcodes which Twilio also sells are worth more to their bottom line and are allowed by the Carriers (if set up right). Thus getting people to use a shortcode is a win win. The Carriers are happy and Twilio makes more money.
      So why does Twilio not enforce the TOS?
      1. Carriers clearly are not forcing the issue. If one of the larger carriers were to threaten them I am 100% sure one or more accounts would be shut down. Basically the fish are too small for the carriers to notice or care about.
      2. Twilio wants your money. They are a business and they want your business even if said business isn't worth as much as a shortcode. They of course hope you upgrade to a shortcode.
      It is simply in Twilio's best interest to play both sides here. If they didn't do it someone else would. The real world reality of it is that unless or until a carrier complains nothing will happen to long code users. But the risk is there. Is your business and personal reputation worth risking to save a couple bucks?

      Why should you use a shortcode?
      1. That is what the Carriers want and allow. You want your messages delivered so you want the Carriers on your side, right?
      2. Shortcodes (and their providers) get white-listed by the Carriers. Think of this like email. You use a service like Constant Contact because they do the work behind the scenes to make sure your emails get delivered. Shortcode providers do the same thing. That's one reason it costs more. You could set up your own email server to sent bulk emails but do you? Why? This is the same idea.
      3. Shortcodes look professional. You customers expect to get marketing messages from shortcodes since that is what the big boys use. When you use a long code customers (aka end users/subscribers) may question rather you are just using a cell phone in the back room to send the deals. And people honestly do that. So which would you (and your clients) like to be compared to? The guy using a Nokia to send the messages or the Fortune 500 Companies that use shortcodes? Image matters.
      So before you decide rather to use a long or short code ask yourself these questions.


      Is your business and personal reputation worth risking to save a couple bucks?


      And which provides the look of professionalism that you and your clients want?


      Honestly if you look at the prices at Lime(and etc) vs. Twilio I just don't get why anyone would choose a long code. But that is my personal opinion. Each marketer/agency needs to answer these questions and decide for themselves.
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      • Profile picture of the author geolocal
        Thanks Joe and Aaron, it looks like technically it IS against Twilio's TOS but they have many customers doing it and appear to "look the other way".

        But I hadn't thought about this...

        Shortcodes look professional. You customers expect to get marketing messages from shortcodes since that is what the big boys use. When you use a long code customers (aka end users/subscribers) may question rather you are just using a cell phone in the back room to send the deals. And people honestly do that. So which would you (and your clients) like to be compared to? The guy using a Nokia to send the messages or the Fortune 500 Companies that use shortcodes? Image matters.
        LOL, sending the deals from a cell phone in the back room, never thought about that, thanks for the visual...
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  • Profile picture of the author imsolutionsgroup
    I asked Twilio customer support a little while back about this issue. Here was their direct response:

    "Hello Eric,

    Thanks for the question.

    Using long codes for a business to communicate with their customers is allowed, particularly when customers have opted in to the business list. With that said, if SMS volumes will be high we generally don't recommend the use of long code because your messages may be filtered out and not delivered due to carrier restrictions. If you must send large volumes of traffic over long codes we recommend obtaining multiple long code numbers and distributing your traffic over several numbers.

    Please let me know if you have any other questions we can help answer.

    Thanks!

    Best wishes,
    Nisha
    Twilio Customer Support"

    So, from that reply, I agree that I think they have the long code statement listed in their TOS for the 2 reasons -

    1. They want to sell more short codes
    2. They have it there as a "fall-back" if they ever need to close an account.

    P.S. I've never had an issue with deliverability using Twilio long codes.
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    • Profile picture of the author geolocal
      Thanks Eric, it's good to know that someone has asked Twilio the question directly and that it's ok, at least verbally.

      Originally Posted by imsolutionsgroup View Post

      I asked Twilio customer support a little while back about this issue. Here was their direct response:

      "Hello Eric,

      Thanks for the question.

      Using long codes for a business to communicate with their customers is allowed, particularly when customers have opted in to the business list. With that said, if SMS volumes will be high we generally don't recommend the use of long code because your messages may be filtered out and not delivered due to carrier restrictions. If you must send large volumes of traffic over long codes we recommend obtaining multiple long code numbers and distributing your traffic over several numbers.

      Please let me know if you have any other questions we can help answer.

      Thanks!

      Best wishes,
      Nisha
      Twilio Customer Support"

      So, from that reply, I agree that I think they have the long code statement listed in their TOS for the 2 reasons -

      1. They want to sell more short codes
      2. They have it there as a "fall-back" if they ever need to close an account.

      P.S. I've never had an issue with deliverability using Twilio long codes.
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      • Profile picture of the author joe ferdinando
        Many of us have spoken with twilio at some point since the new TCPA Laws which affect Canada and the USA. The bottom line answer was simple. Use a permission based opt in system and you will be OK. I was told that many people pay the carrier fee's to use text messaging and if they opt in to receive a text message that is permission based than you are OK rather than receiving spam like scraped messages that is considered spam under local laws in your region. Twilio also said they keep a record of each text message in and out to refer back to that is a record of permission!

        Araons post is very true but misunderstood by many people. I thank Aaron for posting that post. I am sure he or his staff has spoken with Twilio to. Twilio when asked said that the very large corporations need to send out a high volume of messages that can loose data because of using a long codes and should use a short code or break up the messaging to more than one long code. Same holds true for email to sms where you can loose data from an smtp gateway so using a long code is better than email to sms and using a short code is better than using a long code. so the new question is what is better than a short code? And the future of messaging my be in apps like viber or some other apps. But its clear right now that text messaging is here to stay!

        Anther thing to consider is have you spoken with your phone carrier or any others? I have and was told the same thing. As long as the person has giving consent and permission than the message received is not considered spam or against local laws. I was also told that it depends on what area or region they subscribe to their mobile phone plans.

        The one thing that everyone agree's to is this:
        Permission and consent!

        Originally Posted by geolocal View Post

        Thanks Eric, it's good to know that someone has asked Twilio the question directly and that it's ok, at least verbally.
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    • Profile picture of the author Steve Solem
      Originally Posted by imsolutionsgroup View Post

      With that said, if SMS volumes will be high we generally don't recommend the use of long code because your messages may be filtered out and not delivered due to carrier restrictions.
      The question is then, what do they consider to be a high volume?

      I'd hope not the few hundreds/thousands a small business might grow to, but it's tough to say when they're so vague in their response.
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      • Profile picture of the author joe ferdinando
        Originally Posted by Steve Solem View Post

        The question is then, what do they consider to be a high volume?

        I'd hope not the few hundreds/thousands a small business might grow to, but it's tough to say when they're so vague in their response.
        I did contact them and ask that question:
        What do you at Twilio consider to be a high volume?

        I was simply told if your corperate and doing nation wide or world wide then go for short codes and if your doing local area use the simple long code untill you think your loosing numbers LOL!
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  • Profile picture of the author imsolutionsgroup
    Shortcodes look professional. You customers expect to get marketing messages from shortcodes since that is what the big boys use. When you use a long code customers (aka end users/subscribers) may question rather you are just using a cell phone in the back room to send the deals. And people honestly do that. So which would you (and your clients) like to be compared to? The guy using a Nokia to send the messages or the Fortune 500 Companies that use shortcodes? Image matters.
    You're falling into the trap of thinking that what you know is common knowledge. The average consumer has no clue what the difference is between a short code and a long code, besides the length of the number. All they see is a text message. I bet if you asked the person who received a text message from a business using a short code "Do you know how I sent that to you?" Most would say - "From a cell phone?"

    Just because you know the difference don't automatically assume the consumer does
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    • Profile picture of the author joe ferdinando
      Shortcodes look professional. You customers expect to get marketing messages from shortcodes since that is what the big boys use. When you use a long code customers (aka end users/subscribers) may question rather you are just using a cell phone in the back room to send the deals. And people honestly do that. So which would you (and your clients) like to be compared to? The guy using a Nokia to send the messages or the Fortune 500 Companies that use shortcodes? Image matters.
      I can say this from being in the trenches with local Businesses and helping to build list!

      When dealing with a local business list and using a long code people seem to respond to a local number(long code) because its within their area code!

      When dealing with a very large corporations like Taco bell, Pepsi, Coke etc.... they see short codes being use for example text the word coke to 12345 to get a coupon for your next purchase on coke products.

      Now notice the big corporations are dealing with a very very large volume and need the short code!

      We dealing with our own local businesses use long codes so the people in the community see and recognize a local area code and are comfortable joining their local business list!

      Texting from the From the back room LOL......... Ask around the person saving and getting something for FREE doesn't care if its coming from the back room or the bathroom LOL! Bottom line is they are signing up to receive discounts, special promotions, etc.......

      The question is this:
      Are you going out and dealing with real people in local business or just trying to sell online!

      OK all jokes aside. Short codes are the best way to go and it falls in the legal parameters but can be costly. But long codes are easy accessible and easy to use and cost effective!

      Most software platforms and plugins for SMS are made to use long codes!

      Another thing to consider is if you are using sms with voice messages or voice signups then you need a long code!
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  • Profile picture of the author TrumpiaTim
    For mass messaging, only short codes are approved for this type of volume delivery.
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    www.Trumpia.com

    Trumpia: The Most Completed SMS Text Messaging Software & API Solution.
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  • Profile picture of the author TrumpiaTim
    I'd imagine since long codes are SMTP, the throttle would be comparable to how email servers are blacklisted.
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    Trumpia: The Most Completed SMS Text Messaging Software & API Solution.
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