SMS and MMS Prohibited Content in the US

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SMS is a highly regulated channel and is subject to stringent rules, regulations, and carrier requirements. Certain message content is prohibited and wireless carriers will reject SMS and MMS messages containing prohibited content by default. Other use cases are subject to additional requirements, like age-gating procedures. If your business sends messages containing any of the types of prohibited content listed below, SMS may not be the appropriate channel to reach your customer base.

This article runs through prohibited message categories and their various restrictions.

Even if your use case is not listed here, note that you always need express consent to message someone via SMS. Additionally, all messages you send should comply with the applicable laws of the jurisdiction in which the message recipient is located, applicable communications industry guidelines or standards, and Klaviyo’s Acceptable Use Policy, which prohibits sending any content that is illegal, discriminatory, hateful, obscene, indecent, deceptive, fraudulent, malicious or otherwise objectionable.

Note: This information is not legal advice. You should consult with your legal counsel to make sure that your SMS program and message content comply with applicable laws.

SMS Prohibited Content

The following message categories are prohibited for Klaviyo SMS and MMS:

  • Illegal substances
  • Sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobacco (SHAFT)
  • Third-party lead generation
  • High-risk financial services
  • Debt collection and forgiveness
  • Gambling
  • Multi-level marketing

Below, we discuss these categories in more detail.

Illegal Substances

Illegal substances means anything federally illegal, illegal on a state level, or illegal in the jurisdiction where the message recipient is located, including:

  • CBD
  • Vaping
  • Marijuana/cannabis
  • Prescription medication that cannot legally be sold over-the-counter
  • THC


SHAFT stands for:

  • Sex
  • Hate
  • Alcohol
  • Firearms (includes fireworks)
  • Tobacco

This content is prohibited and is monitored and enforced by the CTIA, a wireless carrier trade organization in the United States that publishes guidelines intended to protect consumers from spam.

Generally speaking, in the US, alcohol references may be allowed on toll-free numbers and short codes if proper age-gating is in place. Similarly, tobacco may be permitted on short codes with age-gating in place, although it is always forbidden on toll-free numbers. However, even with age-gating, whether or not alcohol and tobacco references are allowed is subject to carriers' discretion.  

SHAFT content is not allowed with Klaviyo SMS; however, other SMS providers may allow it. 

Third-Party Lead Generation

Getting express written consent to send SMS messages is a core principle to many of the rules and regulations that govern the sending of SMS messages. Buying, selling, or sharing of consumer data is strictly prohibited. The business that obtained consent is the only business authorized to send SMS. “Cold” outreach is the solicitation of business from potential customers who have had no prior contact with the business and is strictly prohibited.

High-Risk Financial Services

SMS messages featuring financial investment advice or tips, as well as information on loans and refinancing options, are prohibited. Carriers also prohibit messages with links to donation sites.

Legitimate financial institutions may use SMS in accordance with certain restrictions, and often leverage text alerts for suspicious card activity, appointment reminders, and other transactional messages.

Prohibited high-risk financial services message categories include:

  • Cryptocurrency
  • Payday loans
  • Short-term high-interest loans
  • Student loans
  • Third-party auto or mortgage loans

Debt Collection and Forgiveness

Almost all debt consolidation and forgiveness efforts are prohibited for SMS and MMS.

Regarding debt collection, the business owed the debt can send payment reminders to late payers, personalized messages with account details, and follow up on payment confirmations. However, a third party cannot attempt to collect the debt for you via SMS and MMS.

Examples of prohibited use cases for debt collection and forgiveness include:

  • Credit repair programs
  • Debt collection from a third party
  • Debt consolidation
  • Debt reduction


Gambling content is prohibited on all number types, including messages pertaining to:

  • Casino apps
  • Gambling websites

Multi-Level Marketing

Multi-level marketing (MLM) products, services, or content commonly associated with unsolicited commercial messages (spam) are prohibited. This includes:

  • Multi-level marketing, network marketing and pyramid schemes
  • Risk investment programs
  • Work-from-home schemes
  • “Get rich quick," "build your wealth," and "financial independence" offerings

Additional Resources

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