Articles on: SMS/WhatsApp

SMS and MMS Prohibited Content


SMS marketing is a highly regulated channel, and it is subject to stringent rules, regulations, and carrier requirements. Specific message content is prohibited and wireless carriers will reject SMS and MMS messaging including prohibited content by default. Other use cases are subject to additional requirements, such as age-gating procedures.

If you send messages containing any of the types of prohibited content listed below, SMS marketing may not be the appropriate channel to reach your customer base.

This guide will run through prohibited message categories and their various restrictions.

SMS & MMS prohibited content

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

- Illegal substances

- Sex, hate, alcohol, firearms, and tobaco (SHAFT)

- High-risk financial services

- Third-party lead generation

- Debt collection and forgiveness

- Gambling

- Multi-level marketing

Let's 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:


- Marijuana/ cannabis

- Vaping


- Prescription medication that cannot legally be sold over-the-counter


SHAFT, as we mentioned above, stands for:

- Sex

- Hate

- Alcohol

- Firearms

- Tobacco

The CTIA, a wireless carrier trade organization in the United States that sets standards to protect consumers from spam, prohibits this content and monitors and enforces it.

Alcohol, firearm, and tobacco references are always prohibited on toll-free numbers, and are subject to carriers' discretion. Nevertheless, they may be allowed on long code or short code numbers if you follow proper age-gating procedures. For example, in the US, you can only send these types of messages to people who are 21 or older.

High-risk financial services

SMS messages featuring high-risk financial services are prohibited. Some examples include financial investment advice or tips, or information on loans and refinancing options. Carriers also forbidden messages with links to donation websites.

Legitimate financial situations might use SMS in accordance with particular restrictions, and often leverage text alerts for suspicious card activities, appointment reminders, as well as other transactional messages.

Prohibited high-risk financial services include:

- Payday loans

- Cryptocurrency

- Short-term high-interest loans

- Student loans

- Third-party auto or mortgage loans

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 delivery of SMS messages. Any actions of buying, selling, or sharing of customer data is strictly prohibited.

The business that obtained consent is the only business authorized to send SMS messages. "Cold" outreach is considered the solicitation of business from prospects who have had no prior contact with the business and is strictly prohibited.

Debt collection and forgiveness

Most debt collection and forgiveness efforts are prohibited for SMS and MMS.

In terms of debt collection, the business owed the debt can send payment reminders to late prayers, personalized messages with account details, and follow up on payment confirmation. But a third party cannot attempt to collect debt for you via SMS and MMS.

Some examples of prohibited use cases for debt collection and forgiveness include:

- Debt collection for a third party

- Debt consolidation

- Debt reduction

- Credit repair programs


While gambling content is forbidden for toll-free numbers, it's actually possible with a short code or long code number in case proper age-gating procedures are in place. For instance, in the US, you can only send to people who are 21 or older.

Unless you have the correct age-gating systems, messages pertaining to the following are prohibited for SMS and MMS:

- Gambling websites

- Casino apps

Multi-level marketing

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

- Multi-level marketing, network marketing, and pyramid schemes

- Work-from-home schemes

- Risk investment programs

- "Get rich quick," "Build your wealth," and "Financial independence" offerings

NOTE: Even if your use case is not listed in this guide, note that you always need express consent to message someone via SMS. In addition, all messages you deliver should comply with the applicable laws of the jurisdiction in which the message recipient is located, applicable communications industry guidelines or standard, and AVADA's policy.

Updated on: 09/08/2021

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