Can you buy mobile numbers for text message marketing?

Though mobile phone numbers may actually be purchased from data brokers for digital marketing purposes, it is considered illegal to send text messages to those phone numbers. Why is this act of sending text messages to purchased phone numbers illegal?

In the United States, there is a regulatory commission called the FCC, The Federal Communications Commission, that promulgated a body of rules called the TCPA, the Telephone Consumers Protection Act. One of the fundamental rules that constitute the TCPA is that you cannot send text messages to consumers without obtaining their consent. The consent must also have been obtained prior to sending the text message since consent obtained after the act cannot really be termed consent in legal terms.

Therefore, if you send text messages to customers without their consent, probably by purchasing a list of phone numbers from a data broker, you have violated the TCPA’s fundamental rule. The TCPA is a federal law, and aggrieved consumers have the right to sue your business for about $500 to $1500 for each text message sent. This means that if you send text messages to a million people without their consent, you are liable to be sued for around $500,000,000 to $1,500,000,000

Therefore, while buying phone numbers cheaply from data brokers and then sending text messages to these numbers may seem like an easy way to advertise your brand to a wide audience, the fines you might have to pay for sending those text messages to those phone numbers can be in the millions or hundreds of millions of dollars. So, while it is actually legal to buy phone numbers from data brokers, it is completely illegal to send text messages to the purchased phone numbers if you haven’t obtained the consent of the subscribers who own those phone numbers.

However, if you can find a way of legally obtaining the consent of the consumers who own these phone numbers, you can send your brand’s text messages without any legal repercussions.

(Inspired by Tatango)

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