Last week, the governor of Connecticut signed into law a new requirement that extends compliance with the state’s existing Do-Not-Call registry to promotional text messages (SMS). Specifically, the law amends the definition of a “telephonic sales call” to include a “text or media message sent by or on behalf of a telephone solicitor,” thereby prohibiting promotional SMS from being transmitted to any number on the state’s existing Do-Not-Call registry. The law defines a “text or media message” to mean “a message that contains written, audio, video or photographic content and is sent electronically to a mobile telephone or mobile electronic device telephone number,” but it expressly excludes “electronic mail sent to an electronic mail address.” Under the new law, a text or media message is promotional or commercial in nature if it involves marketing or sales, the extension of credit for good or services, or the collection of information for these purposes.
Like telephonic sales calls, promotional text or media messages need not be scrubbed against Connecticut’s existing Do-Not-Call registry if they are transmitted with the recipient’s “prior express written consent,” sent primarily in connection with an existing debt or contract that is pending, or are transmitted to an existing customer who has not asked to be excluded from such messages. The new law, however, contains a separate, stand-alone prohibition against transmitting a promotional SMS to numbers that do not appear on the state’s Do-Not-Call registry, absent the “prior express written consent” of the message recipients. The new law adopts the same definition for “prior express written consent” as the Federal Communication Commission’s existing telemarketing rules under the Telephone Consumer Protection Act.
The new law also increases the maximum penalty for violations from $11,000 to $20,000, although only the state Commissioner of Consumer Protection is given enforcement authority to carry out the law’s provisions. The law also contains a new provision requiring telephone and telecommunications companies to at least twice per year include a conspicuous notice in their bills or account statements informing consumers about the relevant telemarketing prohibitions, along with information about how consumers can add their phone numbers to the state Do-Not-Call registry, and how to file a complaint with the state Department of Consumer Protection for violations of the law.
Connecticut’s new requirements become effective this fall, on October 1, 2014.