Compliant Marketing in a Mobile World

money and pillars

Mobile apps are dominating our digital world, they are more robust than text messaging, and are now a preferred channel to millennial consumers. And if the rapid move to mobile wasn’t enough, you also have to deal with new communication regulations on established channels like phone calls and text messages, so it’s more imperative than ever that you are educated and practicing compliant marketingwithin your business.

Mobile apps make it easier to get express communications permission from consumers, but the technology is so new that the law has yet to fully catch up, but it will. The laws and the FCC and FTC regulations are changing—and fast. If you’re caught in the dark, you could be shelling out some serious cash, and maybe even shuttering your dealership.

Not convinced? Just this past month, major companies like United Continental Holdings Inc., Delta Airlines, OpenTable, Inc., and others, were busted by California Attorney General Kamala Harris for failing to clearly post their privacy policies in their mobile apps. The companies now have 30 days to make their privacy policies available to their app consumers, or to state “specific plans and timeline to comply.” If they don’t, they could face consequences of up to $2,500 for each download of an app that violates the law.

And compliant marketing doesn’t just start with mobile apps. This stuff is old news when it comes to direct mail, email, telemarketing, and text messaging, but ‘old’ news has a funny way of becoming ‘new’ news all over again. In August 2012, the FTC filed a suit against Dish Network for millions of alleged company Do Not Call (DNC) violations—at a cost of $16,000 per violation. In fact, as of October 2012, the automotive service market (dealers and aftermarket companies) had settled numerous text message lawsuits at a total cost of over $50 million in just the preceding 10 months.

When it comes to “wireless communications and prerecorded calls to residential homes”, the FCC has a new rule change: you must now have “prior express written consent.” So what is written consent? Essentially, it is any consumer acknowledgment that is recognized as a valid signature under state or federal law. And what’s a valid signature? It’s an email, a website submission, a telephone key press or text opt-in. Written consent must clearly and conspicuously disclose the consequences of consent, it cannot be ambiguous and it cannot come with a catch.

And remember, the burden is always on the defendant; you’re guilty until proven innocent. So, don’t get caught in this deadly web of non-compliant marketing, start by knowing the law, or hire someone who does. Use respectable vendors that also watch out for changes in the law. Join industry trade associations and other groups, such as the Mobile Marketing Association. Know your state regulators and don’t be afraid to ask questions. Review your insurance policies. Are you protected from advertising injury, and if not, why not?

If your dealership has a mobile app then post your privacy policy now, loud and clear (and if your dealership doesn’t have an app, get one!) to be sure your store doesn’t become the next victim of non-compliant marketing.

Mike Martinez is chief marketing officer of DMEautomotive, the industry leader in science-based, results-driven automotive marketing that provides a range of marketing services to the biggest and most innovative automotive organizations in the industry. For more information, email

Michael Bowen


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