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A Short Guide to the SMS Compliance Landscape in KSA

A Short Guide to the SMS Compliance Landscape in KSA

Introduction

Navigating Saudi Arabia’s SMS compliance landscape can be a challenging task for businesses operating in the Kingdom. With the rise of mobile technology, it has become increasingly important for regulatory bodies to put in place measures to protect consumers from unwanted spam and malicious texts. Companies wishing to use SMS as a means to reach customers also have a responsibility to use SMS judiciously and a collective interest in keeping the platform free from the sort of traffic that will turn consumers off the platform. To ensure compliance and protect consumers, The CITC (Communications and Information Technology Commission) authority in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has established guidelines and regulations for the use of SMS marketing which any company sending SMS messages to consumers in the Kingdom needs to comply with. This short guide will take you through the main points to be aware of in relation to CITC regulations on SMS messaging for businesses.

Types of Message

The CITC sets out in its regulations that organizations have to classify the type of message they are sending according to the following message types. The types of messages any organization is permitted to send will depend on the sector in which the organization operates. Eg. Only certain government entities are permitted to send warning messages. The message types are:

  1. Warning Messages - these are high-priority messages or alerts to want of an imminent or occurred event, sent to people in the danger zone, by government authorities.

  1. Awareness Messages - these are messages that include guidance or informative content sent to all users by government agencies, banks, universities, schools, and more.

  2. Service Messages - these are messages with service content sent to specific users for the purpose of providing or requesting information related to the delivery of that service. These are typically personalized to the user and could include OTP authentication, appointment confirmations, and more.

  3. Personal Messages - messages sent from a specific user number to another specific user's number

Promotional (Marketing) Messages - are those of a commercial or marketing nature, sent to advertise or promote goods, services, or business opportunities, or to collect donations.

The sectors which are permitted by the CITC to send different types of messages are set out as follows:

  • Government Agencies:

May send awareness, service, and warning messages

  • Private Agencies:
May send promotional, awareness, and service messages
  • Individuals:

May send personal messages

  • Parties outside of KSA: 

May only send service or personal messages

 

Now we have defined the types of messages available and who is able to send them, let's move on to look in more detail at what can be sent. Broadly speaking, the regulations laid out by the CITC for sending messages in KSA by commercial companies fall into 3 categories, Timing, Consent, and Content. Let’s take them one by one:

Timing

To protect the consumer from receiving promotional text messages at all hours of the day and night, the CITC sets out a specific window in which they are permitted to be sent to consumers. That window is limited to between 9 am and 10 pm on any day of the week. During the holy month of Ramadan, that window shifts to between 12pm and 1am. Outside of that window, it is not permitted to send marketing messages. Additionally, customers should not receive any more than one message per day from any one business. Service messages such as delivery information, appointment confirmations, or OTP delivery messages are not covered by this restriction and can be sent at any time.

Consent

In order to send marketing messages, the sender must follow these guidelines.

  • Get consent (opt-in) from the recipient either over SMS or via another channel except for a voice call.

  • Submit a notification to the recipient confirming their opt-in or opt-out of receiving promotional messages.

  • Enable the recipient to request to unsubscribe in a free and easy way, at any time, through traditional and electronic channels

  • Stop sending promotional messages, at the most within 24 hours after receiving the unsubscribe request.

  • Keep a record of those recipients who have consented (subscribed, opted-in) for the duration that marketing messages are being sent.

Content

For a sender to remain compliant with the CITC regulations for sending SMS messages, the content must follow certain rules and structures:

  • The sender must include their electronic address in the message (Their sender ID)

  • All promotional messages must be sent from a sender name that includes the prefix- AD before the body of the text. For example AD UNIFONIC. This format will already be familiar to mobile phone users in the kingdom. It enables instant recognition of a marketing message and leaves little room for confusion.

  • Sender names reserved for transactional, or service messages, cannot be used for sending promotional messages, and vice versa.

  • The message content itself should not break any KSA laws. No religious, political, or patriotic content is allowed and any promotional messages related to Non-Muslim religious events, etc. should be avoided. This includes any information contained within a link that the SMS is pointing to. For example, if the SMS has a link to a web page, that page also needs to be compliant with the guidelines.

How Service Providers Can Help

Using a service provider such as Unifonic to help manage your SMS campaigns can help a business to navigate these regulations and stay compliant. Unifonic’s software includes safeguards that can alert the sender to possible infringements in the content before they are sent out and can make use of templates that ensure all the correct info is present and checked prior to distribution. Our tools also ensure that nothing is sent outside of the permitted windows and our systems are regularly updated to ensure that any new guidelines or legislation are incorporated as soon as they come into force. As a final fail-safe, all content can be set up to only be released once a designated staff member in the sender organization has read it and signed it off.

Conclusion

As we can see, navigating the KSA's SMS compliance landscape can be challenging for businesses but companies sending SMS messages to consumers in the kingdom must pay close attention to these guidelines. Inadvertently sending out non-compliant messages can lead to costly fines or suspensions that remove the company's ability to reach their customers via SMS so it’s worth taking the time to fully understand the landscape and considering asking an experienced service provider to help.

To speak to a Unifonic expert about how we can help your business remain compliant in Saudi Arabia while harnessing the full potential of SMS, contact us today

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