Understand SMS and MMS prohibited content

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Learn about which content is not allowed for SMS marketing. 

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.

Why is certain content prohibited for SMS? 

SMS is a highly regulated channel and is subject to stringent rules, regulations, and carrier requirements. In countries such as the US and Canada, certain message content is prohibited and is best avoided no matter where you are sending. 

Wireless carriers also have their own rules for what they will allow, and they will reject SMS and MMS messages that contain prohibited content. 

Some SMS content is subject to additional requirements, like age-gating procedures. However, Klaviyo currently does not support this use case. 

What if my business falls under a prohibited category? 

For businesses that are entirely prohibited (i.e., when it’s forbidden even with age-gating), SMS may not be the appropriate channel to reach your customer base.

If your use case requires age gating, we recommend trying a third party. Klaviyo does not currently natively support age-gating use cases. 

SMS prohibited content

Klaviyo prohibits the following message categories for 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
  • Political content

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.

Illegal substances

Illegal substances are 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
  • Psychoactive plants (e.g., Kratom) 

SHAFT

SHAFT stands for:

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

*May be allowed with proper age-gating procedures in place. Klaviyo currently doesn’t natively support age-gating use cases. 

SHAFT content is not allowed with Klaviyo SMS. For more information, open the sections below. 

Sex 

Anything overtly sexual or inappropriate in nature

Hate 

Including: 

  • Discriminatory language 
  • Hate speech
  • Promotion of violence

*Alcohol 

Firearms

Including: 

  • Fireworks 
  • Explosives
  • Firearm accessories  
  • Ammo
  • Holsters
  • Targets
  • Lessons
  • Depictions of violence

*Tobacco 

Including: 

  • Vaping 
  • Paraphernalia

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 from a customer is the only business authorized to send SMS to that customer. “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, only the business that is owed the debt can send payment reminders to late payers, personalized messages with account details, and can 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

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

Political content

Using SMS to send messages associated with a political campaign is prohibited. This includes:

  • Political advertising 
  • Political canvassing

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