S.H.A.F.T. Brands and SMS: The Truth

S.H.A.F.T. Brands & SMS

What’s the deal with S.H.A.F.T. compliance? Most marketers know that brands are not supposed to include any of these things in their marketing campaigns, but what they don’t know is the truth behind this rule…

What does S.H.A.F.T mean?

SHAFT (Sex, Hate, Alcohol, Firearms, and Tobacco–CBD is included in the category) content has long been heavily regulated in SMS marketing; CTIA has tightened its rules regarding such content. There are guidelines for what you can’t do under the rules and regulations of the CTIA; SMS marketers use this acronym as a guideline on what precisely not to include in their messages.

What are the penalties for violating TCPA regulations?

Fines are usually up to $500 per violation, the most common punishment for non-compliance. Non-compliance could result in consumer class action lawsuits, which can be very costly to a company. When companies receive TCPA complaints, they should make sure their legal department is aware of the complaint as soon as possible to take appropriate measures. The penalties for not complying with TCPA regulations are severe enough that it’s best to err on the side of caution and follow all guidelines when marketing via text message to avoid any potential problems down the line.

You need to know that SMS is subject to more restrictions and scrutiny than other marketing channels. Specific industries cannot use SMS to promote content unless the proper age-gating procedures are in place. Furthermore, non-compliance with these requirements may result in a suspension of the sending number, an audit, and fines. 

About Age-Gating for SMS

The goal of age-gated websites is to prevent underage users from viewing restricted or inappropriate content. Visitors must verify their age by entering their birthdate or age before gaining access to restricted content.

The CTIA requires specific industries in the U.S. to implement age-gating; however, we recommend using it no matter where you collect SMS consent.

Providing SMS age-gating has two parts that are required. Underage visitors must not be allowed on SMS.

  • Viewing content on a website
  • Taking advantage of SMS marketing
Preventing Visitors from Subscribing

Consider including an age gate within your SMS signup form. That way, someone would have to verify their age before they become a subscriber.

You’ll need to use an age gate signup form to collect consent based on age. This form is auto-generated with your company logo on Otter Text.

In the context of age-gating, text-to-join is not considered age-gating. However, it is part of age-gating to prevent anyone under the required age from subscribing; if a subscribe keyword is sent, anyone can opt-in with text-to-join. Then double opt-in with their birthday to confirm.

What Industries Need to Age-Gate in the United States 

Although some industries are prohibited from sending SMS, they can if they use an age gate, although some are permitted only in specific cases.

If you plan to run a promotion featuring a specific type of content or fall into one of the below categories, age-gating is required for compliance.

IndustryAllowed with age-gating? 
Age: 21+
Age: 21+
Sweepstakes (regional laws for sweepstakes may apply)
Age: 18+

T-Mobile update (December 15th, 2022)

T-Mobile is rejecting Firearm campaigns based on their interpretation of the CTIA code of conduct on page 9. They use the shortcode standards for 10DLC campaigns and will not allow firearm-related traffic to be sent. T-Mobile has made it clear that if there is a link to a gun store on the Brand, and in the store ammunition is sold, they will not accept the campaign. 

Non-registered campaigns can be sent, but T-mobile might cause messages to be undelivered. We urge you to contact the following organizations about T-mobile to get the word out.

How Otter is making your life easy

OtterText makes signup easy for S.H.A.F.T. Companies with automated age gating built into Opt-in SMS. Instead of installing a third-party plugin for an age gate, Otter includes an age gate website with your logo to prevent users from accessing your website if they are under 18 or 21, based on the type of company above.

The SMS dashboard Otter Text provides is configured to allow S.H.A.F.T. Companies to advertise Ammo sales, guns, range time, and more through texting. We have implemented comprehensive CTIA and TCPA compliance policies to ensure customer satisfaction and the ability to send marketing texts.