Toll-Free SMS Messaging - Best Practices for A2P Compliance and When to Use Local Numbers Instead of Toll-Free Follow
Let's start this article by explaining the recent compliance changes affecting customers. Before October 1st, 2022, sending SMS messages for lead nurturing and marketing purposes via toll-free numbers was an accepted use case. Things have changed.
Use of toll-free numbers to send volume-oriented or repetitive SMS messages is strongly discouraged, and phone carriers are blocking messages due to changes to legislation and new compliance policies known as "A2P 10DLC." Any blocks will be per business and done through the phone carriers, not through the legal CRM. Also, any blocks or failure to comply will follow a company around due to new legislation, so changing software will not solve these issues. Being compliant is the solution.
A2P 10DLC refers to a system in the United States that allows businesses to send Application-to-Person (A2P) type messaging via standard 10-digit long code(10DLC) phone numbers. Carriers in the US consider all SMS/MMS traffic sent by software apps over regular 10-digit phone numbers to be A2P.
Before A2P, toll-free numbers were a good way to send messages with a low filtering rate, but things have changed! Carriers’ A2P 10DLC offerings provide better delivery quality and lower filtering risk than long code SMS of the past, using the same phone numbers.
- If you are using toll-free phone messaging to send lead nurturing messages, that is no longer a suggested use case for toll-free numbers. It is strongly recommended to purchase local phone numbers for marketing messages.
⚡The enforcement for the 10/1/2022 deadline has changed from failing all unverified Toll-Free traffic to failing traffic that exceeds 2000 messages per day per number.
⚠️ Sending messages from more than 1 toll-free number per business can result in the business and all phone lines being filtered (all messages blocked). Do not "load balance" by sending the same or similar message contents using multiple Toll-Free numbers. Carriers call this "snowshoeing," specifically targeted for filtering on toll-free SMS. So, the messages will be blocked and not delivered, unfortunately.
Although carrier filtering is still possible for messages sent from Toll-Free phone numbers, you can greatly reduce the likelihood of filtering by complying with all rules and regulations and following best practices. This guide explains which SMS and MMS use cases are approved for Toll-Free phone numbers and our recommendations for ensuring high deliverability.
How Do I Fix My Toll-Free messaging issues?
The simplest way to resolve A2P-related issues (that arose after October 1st, 2022) is to switch to local phone numbers for sending marketing automation/lead nurturing use case messages. Otherwise, it will be a long road and eventually ends in having to stop messaging from toll-free numbers for anything other than approved toll-free messaging use cases.
💡If you are a national firm that requires a national presence and do not want to be limited to 1 local phone number to send messages, you can use local presence texting features, also known as CoPilot.
NOTE: This feature is built into the legal CRM system and can be activated by contacting the support team.
CoPilot automatically uses the closed local phone number to send SMS messages after you purchase a block of phone numbers in most major metropolitan areas.
NOTE: CoPilot requires purchasing a block of 100 or 250 numbers in major metropolitan areas, which does have an added monthly cost.
For example, sending a message to a customer in Queens (New York City), New York, would automatically use the closest number in your number pool, which would likely be a local 718 or a similar New York number, as long as that number exists in your number pool.
Furthermore, sending a message to a customer in Houston, Texas, would automatically use the closest number in your number pool, which would likely be a local 713 area code number. This is done automatically as long as it is set up for you and you own enough local numbers.
Approved Toll-Free messaging use cases
Some messaging categories, such as high-risk financial services and third-party debt collection, are specifically forbidden on Toll-Free SMS and MMS.
Toll-Free messaging is a great choice for transactional use cases, including the following:
- One-time password (OTP) or verification codes
- Account-related alerts or notifications
- Customer care messaging for existing customers, not lead nurturing. This might include some automated messaging for existing customers (including satisfaction surveys)
- If you are using toll-free phone messaging to send lead nurturing messages, that is no longer a supported use case for toll-free numbers. It is strongly recommended to purchase local phone numbers. If you are a national firm, you can use local presence texting features, also known as CoPilot.
Toll-Free messaging could also be used for promotional or marketing-type traffic, but it is now much riskier than before A2P 10DLC, and your messages could be blocked quickly, almost making it not worth the effort. However, it is extremely important to ensure that all recipients have opted-in and that you maintain a low opt-out ("STOP" reply) rate to avoid filtering.
Short code numbers remain the best method of sending high-volume marketing or promotional messaging in the United States and Canada. Unfortunately, Short code numbers can take several months to be approved and cost thousands of dollars per month to rent, thus putting them out of reach for many businesses.
Toll-Free Messaging Verification is required and reduces filtering risk on compliant traffic
The enforcement for the 10/1/2022 deadline has changed from failing all unverified Toll-Free traffic to failing traffic that exceeds 2000 messages per day per number.
Toll-Free Verification reduces the risk of filtering your message traffic, assuming it complies with all applicable rules. The Toll-Free traffic verification process can take approximately 2-3 weeks to complete and could result in your texting being down the entire time you wait unless you use local numbers instead.
Toll-Free messaging best practices
Toll-Free message filtering is primarily geared toward preventing unwanted messaging, fraud, or abuse. If you send A2P messages to the US that align with the CTIA's best practices and the Acceptable Use Policy in your subscriber agreement, you should generally see a low rate of filtering when using a Toll-Free phone number. However, if your business does get more than a few opt-out requests or complaints, then your toll-free numbers can be filtered very quickly and usually stay that way.
Additionally, Toll-Free messaging users must adhere to the following standards:
- Obtain clear opt-in from your recipients before sending them messages (the opt-in does not need to be via SMS).
- Provide easy ways for your users to opt out of messages.
- Maintain a very low opt-out (STOP reply) rate from your recipients.
- Use shortened, branded URLs for the highest deliverability levels when sending links in the message body. Do not use shared URL shorteners (such as popular free URL shortening services) as these are forbidden by US carriers and will result in filtering.
- Do not "load balance" by sending the same or similar message contents using multiple Toll-Free numbers. Carriers call this "snowshoeing," and it is specifically targeted for filtering on toll-free SMS.
My Toll-Free messages to the United States or Canada are being filtered (error 30007), but my use case complies with all best practices.
If you suspect you may be experiencing inappropriate filtering (error 30007) on compliant outbound Toll-Free SMS messages despite following all the best practices listed above, please get in touch with our support team, and we can investigate on your behalf.
NOTE: Our support team can ask why your toll-free SMS messages are being filtered, but the ultimate decision is up to the carrier ecosystem and not our support team.
Toll-Free SMS and MMS carrier fees
NOTE: Carrier fees are subject to change by the carriers at any time without notice.
Verizon charges a carrier fee of $0.0025 per SMS message segment and $0.005 per MMS on all Toll-Free messaging toward subscribers on their network.
T-Mobile (including Sprint): Starting July 1, 2021, Twilio will pass through T-Mobile’s carrier fees of $0.0025 per SMS message segment (inbound and outbound) and $0.01 per MMS (inbound and outbound).
AT&T: Starting July 1, 2021, Twilio will pass through AT&T’s carrier fees of $0.0025 per outbound SMS message segment and $0.003 per outbound MMS.
Why would I use Toll-Free messaging instead of a short code?
A shortcode is an ideal solution for high-volume A2P use cases. By default, shortcodes offer much higher messaging throughput than other types of numbers, at 100 SMS segments per second. US short codes can also be enabled to send MMS (picture or media) messages in the United States.
US-based Toll-Free phone numbers may be a better fit for certain use cases. Unlike short codes, they can be used for placing and receiving voice calls and SMS messages. Toll-free SMS may also be a good choice for a business that needs A2P-type communications but is not ready to apply for a short code.
For a comparison of short code, Toll-Free US, and US/Canadian long code numbers:
|Long code (10-digit numbers)||Toll-free (10-digit numbers)||Short code|
|Coverage||You can send SMS to any country.||You can send SMS to any country.||Can send SMS within their own country only.|
|Voice call capable||Yes||Yes||No, messaging only|
|SMS filtering profile||Application-to-Person (A2P)traffic is subject to carrier filtering.||Verification is required before sending traffic. Reduced carrier filtering to the United States, as well as the Canadian networks Rogers, Fido, Telus, and Videotron.||No carrier filtering as long as you adhere to the use case submitted in your short code application.|
|SMS throughput||1 SMS segment per second can't be increased. Longer messages over 158 chars are multiple segments.||3 SMS segments per second by default, but can be increased. Longer messages over 158 chars are multiple segments.||100 SMS per second by default, but it can be increased.|
|MMS capable||Yes||Yes||Capable of MMS with a one-time enablement fee (US only)|
|Costs||Low cost per number ($3-5/per number per month)||Low cost per number
($3-5 per number per month)
|Very High cost per short code, (estimated $1,500+ per month)|