SMS text messaging in the United Kingdom is highly regulated.

The Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) has published the Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR) which provide guidelines to the regulations governing the unsolicited text marketing messaging in the UK for commercial, charity or political purposes. PECR builds on the strict data protection legislation that is in place relating to the use of personal data. The recently amended Data Protection Act (2008) sets out the protection of consumer data when processed via electronic channels.

Premium rate SMS services in the UK are regulated by PhonepayPlus. Premium rate SMS services use a shortcode for the purchase of mobile content or services (for example, digital content, voting lines or charity donations) that charged to your mobile phone bill or pay-as-you-go credit.

Key requirements for SMS marketing:

Privacy and data protection

Consumers have the right not to receive unsolicited marketing communications via SMS and must be informed of how their personal data is to be processed by an organisation. An organisation will also needs consent to pass customer details on to another organisation.

Opt-in: Consent to marketing

Organisations must not send marketing texts to individuals without their specific, valid and prior explicit consent. This consent must be recorded and kept as proof of consent. There is a limited exception for previous customers, which is known as the soft opt-in. A soft-opt in only applies if the organisation have obtained the contact details in the course of a sale (or negotiations for a sales) of a product or service to the customer; they are only marketing their own similar products or services; and they gave the customer an opportunity to opt-out of the marketing, both when first collecting the details and in every message thereafter.

Opt-out: Removal of consent to marketing

Organisations must stop sending marketing messages to any person who objects or opts out from receiving them. The universally recognised method of opting out from receiving marketing communications via SMS is for a consumer to send STOP to a message they received. You also need to honour an opt-out request via other channels you can be contacted on, for example, via email or telephonically. A STOP confirmation message must be sent to the consumer to confirm the opt-out. This message should include the name of your company and the following words: “You have opted out. You will not receive additional messages”. Records of opt-out communications need to be kept.

Message content

The content of marketing messages must be appropriate to the intended audience and will not be likely to offend, upset or harm, etc, any recipient of the message, whether deliberately or otherwise. In this regard, you must comply with all applicable laws and industry standards that apply to the marketing to children.

Links to regulations and further information

Disclaimer: The information contained in this note is for general guidance on compliance matters only. While we have made every attempt to ensure that the information contained here has been obtained from reliable sources, is not responsible for any errors or omissions, or for the results obtained from the use of this information. It shall be the sole responsibility of Users of’s services to familiarise themselves with all applicable laws, regulations and codes of conduct to which they may be subject and to ensure compliance therewith.

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