Is It Legal To Record My Customer Service Calls?

One important tool in dealing with companies is customer’s ability to record customer service calls, but many wonder if it’s legal or not. Well, until a company actually takes someone to court for doing it, we’ll never know for certain. However, we can look to the state by state wiretapping laws for guidance. Let’s begin.

States either have laws requiring one-party or two-party consent. One-party means just one person, which is to say, yourself, has to be okay with recording the call for it to go forward. Two-party means that both parties have to agree to the call being recorded. These are mainly in place to prevent law enforcement from abusing their ability to listen to phone conversations, but if you want to be super-safe, you can make your call from one of the one-party states.

If you should actually ever try to ask permission to record the call. Most customer service reps are trained to terminate the call if the customer is recording the conversation. Kinda strange, considering that every single one of their robo voice lines says, “This call may be recorded,” but hey, that’s the breaks.

Here’s the state-by-state breakdowns, inside…

States Requiring Two-Party Notification
California
Connecticut
Florida
Illinois
Montana
Michigan
Maryland
Massachusetts
New Hampshire
Nevada
Pennsylvania
Washington

States Requiring One-Party Notification
Alabama
Alaska
Arizona
Arkansas
Colorado
Delaware
District Of Columbia
Georgia
Hawaii
Idaho
Indiana
Iowa
Kansas
Kentucky
Louisiana
Maine
Minnesota
Mississippi
Missouri
Nebraska
New Jersey
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
North Dakota
Ohio
Oklahoma
Texas
Utah
Oregon
Rhode Island
South Carolina
South Dakota
Tennessee
Vermont
Virginia
West Virginia
Wisconsin
Wisconsin

Check this post for options to start recording your calls.

(Photo: Getty)

Comments

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  1. howie_in_az says:

    I live in Arizona. Only one party must be notified of recording calls. Could I use the “this call may be recorded for quality control purposes” as my notification to the company that I’LL be recording the call since they’ve already notified me that they might be recording the call?

  2. SoCalGNX says:

    I would be sure to tell them you are recording. Puts the fear of the Goddess in them.

  3. Amelie says:

    If the only way you can deal with your problem is to call them and be recorded, then you should have the right to record them. Not being able to, is total b.s! Sounds like these guidelines came in the same handbook that recommended the current binding arbitration techniques.

  4. Buran says:

    @SoCalGNX: Then they just hang up on you. Besides, they already said that you may record the call, didn’t they? Goes both ways.

  5. humphrmi says:

    Illinois’ two-party status is somewhat in question.

    Illinois is, by statute, a two-party state. However, case law from both the IL Supreme Court and various Illinois appellate courts have declared Illinois a one-party state in the case of private citizens (businesses and plain folks – NOT law enforcement). The reigning consensus is that one-party consensual recording is merely “enhanced note-taking” and since some folks have total recall without recording, how can the other party have any expectation of privacy to a conversation held with another person.

    ([www.callcorder.com])

  6. rolla says:

    nice…now i can record my gf’s drunk phone calls to me late at nite and play them back to her the next day. hahaaa…

  7. humphrmi says:

    Here’s another question: if you’re in a two-party state and can’t get the other party to agree, what if you go to a Federal building and call from a payphone? I’m talking setting up one of those low-tech suction cup microphones on the handset, plugged into a tape recorder? You’re on federal property, at that point does Federal law (which only mandates one-party consent) prevail?

  8. mycroft2000 says:

    If you live in a one-party state, why bother notifying them and risk a hang-up? You are one of the parties, so record away, absolutely within your rights, without a word and be happy.

  9. Miguel Valdespino says:

    “This call may be recorded,” Hmmm… I interpret that as giving consent for the call to be recorded.

  10. KingPsyz says:

    I thought Nevada was a one party state, hence them recording Crank Yankers and tons of Call Centers being in Las Vegas?

  11. jld says:

    I have to imagine that if the company tells you that the cal may be recorded that the reps are aware that they could be recorded. IANAL, but why would it be required to then ask the rep for their permission? Both parties are aware that recording could be happening… where’s the problem?

  12. GiselleBeardchen says:

    My recollection from way back in the day in Bus Law class–is that you can use recorded phone calls as evidence to defend yourself from legal action with no consent, but cannot use them to institute legal action under any circumstance. Is this not correct?

  13. alhypo says:

    @Miguel Valdespino: Agreed. I can’t imagine them having much of a case against you if they claim they might be recording the call. The worst I see happening is that a judge rules the recording inadmissible for a related case.

    Anyway, I’m disappointed to learn I’m in a two-party state.

  14. Nelsormensch says:

    That’s actually an interesting legal question. Since almost any call centre is going to recording you, can you record them in return without notification? Once one party has announced call recording, does that give the other party free reign to record as well? Obviously, this only applies to two-party notification states.

  15. chrisgoh says:

    But the big question which I never see answered is whether the law just applies to using the recording in a court of law. If I just record a call for my own amusement, does any of this matter. The same would go for posting the recording of the call on-line to humiliate the company into doing the right thing. In other words, do the laws only apply if you want the recording to be admissible in court?

  16. Angiol says:

    @mycroft2000: Yeah, pretty much. One-party just means that you can’t eavesdrop (which would be zero-party).

  17. bradanomics says:

    I just tell the recording that the call may be recorded. Not my fault that they don’t have a live person answer the phone.

  18. tadowguy says:

    If the person you are speaking with is not in your state does it matter? Can I (in Colorado) record someone in California? Does it matter who called whom?

  19. FishingCrue says:

    Better question: Does the operative contract (credit agreement, mortgage etc) have a governing law clause and is recording legit under that state’s laws since thats where the litigation would take place?

    Focus: What are you really going to do with recorded phone calls other than post them online and in doing so expose what most people already know, that by and large customer service sucks?

  20. ideagirl says:

    As stated above, until a consumer is sued for recording, we won’t really know. For what it’s worth, I have recorded numerous calls for a variety of reasons (all for my own protection) and never been sued. In fact, when presenting my recorded evidence, I have never once had anyone ask me if I had permission to record. They are usually to stunned at the fact that I have called them on their BS in a way they can’t refute to start asking legal questions. IMO a suit won’t happen, it will cost them more than it would to just fix the problem. Just my take on it, as I said, so far so good. I live in California.

  21. ideagirl says:

    @chrisgoh: That is my understanding, at least in CA., htat these laws only apply to a recording being admissable in court. I may be wrong, I am not a lawyer, I only work for one.

  22. Major-General says:

    Simple solution: record anyway, or rather, randomly. If someone else “may” be recording for quality purposes, then when you get a rep, let them know also. I know recordings of my phone calls with Verizon would go a long way toward quality improvements.

    If they hang up on you, call back and escalate. Keep escalating until someone tells you why they are hanging up for a bahavior they assume you agree to.

  23. sonichghog says:

    I take the “This call may be recorded” message you get when calling many companies as permission to record.

    They are telling me that I may record the call.

  24. ExGC says:

    @alhypo: If you parse through these statutes, there is no reason to beleive that the notification that the company is recording is effective to permit a customer recording. They tend to say something to the effect that no recording is to be made unless [one or both] parties have been notified that the recording is going to occur. From a legal analysis standpoint, it refers back to the specific recording.

  25. goller321 says:

    @GiselleBeardchen: No. Recording can be used both to defend and instigate a case. If I record say Worst Buy telling me I will be reimbursed for an item and they later renig, if I decide to sue, I can use that call in court to prove my small claims against them.

    And whether they will agree after the fact or not is not relevant, they have consented by virtue of their own message. Unless a company has no “may be recorded” message AND you live in a two party state, you have every right to record a call.

  26. linedpaper says:

    I suggest checking out [www.321calllog.com]

  27. HeHateMe says:

    Well, they tell you when you call in to a call center that your call could be recorded because they are required by law to notify you. At that point you have the ability to end the call, if you don’t wish to be recorded… If you continue with the call it essentially acts as your approval to be recorded. Now if you call into the call center and think that them notifying you that it MAY be recorded counts as the CAE being notified that you are recording the call, think again. Besides being unethical, it won’t count as both parties being notified under the guidelines of the law. Now if I were the call center rep and you notified me that you were going to record the call, I would decline and ask that you not record. If you refused my request to not record, I would simply end the call. I don’t want to end up on some random web site (no offense to this site) because you felt entitled to something that you didn’t qualify for and I wouldn’t budge on it. (Friends and Co-Workers tell me I’m a stickler for the rules)

  28. swalve says:

    @goller321: IF they agreed to the recording or you were in a one-party state. If the recording was obtained illegally, it is not admissible in course.

  29. TurboWagon00 says:

    The obvious solution is to tell the rep, then say “just kidding” or agree to stop, then edit that part of the recording out later ;)

  30. mac-phisto says:

    @sonichghog: that’s the best answer i ever heard on this subject.

  31. BigNutty says:

    Always record, record, record, record. I tell them I am recording and if they say that they do not want to be recorded or say it is illegal, I tell them I’m going to do it anyway and then let the judge decide if it can be used in court when I sue them.

  32. salguod_senrab says:

    At least some two-party consent states (e.g. Maryland) make it a *felony* as well as grounds for civil action to record phone conversations without consent of both parties. This was the basis for Linda Tripp’s indictment for taping her phone conversations with Monica Lewinsky ([en.wikipedia.org]).

    So, frankly, “let’s see if anyone gets sued, we’ll then have a case, and then we’ll know” is not especially great legal advice.

    That said, it would be interesting to see exactly *which* customer service lines will hang up if you tell them politely that you are recording the call. If this is really a written or de-facto policy of certain companies, it is the sort of thing that could be usefully documented and brought to the attention of the media.

  33. stickystyle says:

    How about this…
    Get hold music for your house, and put the ‘this call may be…’ in the music, then put the agent (where there call center has the ‘this may be..’ bit) on hold for a bit. when you come back on the line start recording if they didn’t hang up.
    If a recorded message is good enough for me to accept this contract, why wouldn’t it be good enough for them?

  34. Ickypoopy says:

    If their recording says, “This call may be recorded for training and quality assurance purposes,” aren’t they giving me permission to record the call? It does not say “We the company may record this call…” it says that the call MAY be recorded. They have therefore consented to my monitoring of the call as long as it is for training or quality assurance purposes. This is absolutely a quality assurance purpose, I am assuring I receive quality service.

    Am I wrong?

  35. RvLeshrac says:

    The “This call may be recorded” message is indeed justification for your recording. The call center rep is notified by virtue of working in the facility that his or her calls may be recorded. He or she already knows that the call may be recorded, thus satisfying the provision that the party on the other end of your line be aware that recording may be taking place.

    If there is no notification by the other party, you will need to state your intent.

  36. ExGC says:

    @Ickypoopy: Logically? No. Legally? Yes.

  37. JustinAche says:

    But I want to know, what if the call center is in another state, or hell, even another country…does Federal law take jurisdiction in this matter? Cause I sure as hell know none of the companies I would call are based out of Florida

  38. Critcol says:

    Being in Mass, I’ve used the two-party consent law to befuddle some telephone reps because the first thing I say to them is that I don’t consent to having this conversation recorded.

  39. Catperson says:

    There is no way that the company’s recording, which says the call may be recorded, gives the customer consent to record the call. That makes absolutely no sense and I can’t believe you guys are arguing that it does – you’re feigning naivete to suit your purposes and I don’t think that would go over well in court. That notice is there to notify you that the company might be recording the call for training or quality assurance purposes. This is something completely different than the customer recording the call to later make a case that the company didn’t do something they said they would. If you can’t see the difference between these two things, then go ahead and record the calls and if you get hauled into court, see how it goes over.

  40. synergy says:

    What if you’re in a one-party state calling a company in a two-party state?

  41. parliboy says:

    @Catperson:

    Even if we’re willing to concede that they reason the company records the call is for training purposes, the reason is irrelevant. Legally speaking, why it’s being recorded really doesn’t matter. If a requirement that I speak with them is to assent to their recording of a call (and I’d wager that EVERY call is recorded), then the corollary is that they themselves consent to being recorded.

    It’s really impossible for them to claim in court “We didn’t know we were being recorded” when they are recording.

  42. Catperson says:

    @Parliboy: So I guess you’re a lawyer. I freely admit that I’m not, but I’m coming at the issue from a logical standpoint. Also, it’s not just why it’s being recorded, it’s who is doing the recording and the permanence of the recording. They never agreed to YOU recording them. They only notified you that THEY MIGHT be recording you. Completely different.

    Companies who record calls may purge them every so often, or, who knows, maybe they aren’t subject to subpoena. So they could argue that they didn’t know they were being recorded in such a way that would come back to be used in a case against them in court a year (or insert your own time period here) later.

    Oh, and usually EVERY call is NOT recorded. My husband worked for one small company that did that, but it’s very rare. The other three (much larger) companies we’ve worked for only recorded a random sampling of calls.

  43. Pylon83 says:

    @parliboy:
    I agree. I can’t see a court holding that it is OK for the company to record the call, yet find it “illegal” for the customer to do so. It’s not logical to assume that in such a situation it is ok for party A to record but not ok for party B to record. Further, I agree that the “reason” the company is recording them has little relevance.

  44. Pylon83 says:

    @Catperson:
    That’s not entirely true anymore. WIth the availability of cheap mass storage and the digitization of call center phone systems, many companies are going to a system where they can and do record every single call. Further, you’re argument that YOU consented to THEM recording you is illogical. BOTH parties consented to the call being recorded in general, who makes the recording is of no significance.

  45. war59312 says:

    I’ve been recording for years…

  46. Catperson says:

    @Pylon83: This is the last time I’m going to argue this because I truly don’t care if a whole army of Consumerist readers record all their calls, but it’s definitely not the same thing. If I tell you that I’m going to record a call I’m having with you, and you agree to that, I control the recording – it’s in my ownership and I can do with it what I please, as long as it’s within the limits of the law. If you then decide to record me on that same call but don’t tell me and then use that recording for something, I’m going to be pretty irritated because I never even knew you had the recording. My point is that no one is consenting to the call being recorded in general. They are consenting to the company recording the call for a specific purpose. Nothing else.

  47. trollkiller says:

    Florida law state:
    (d) It is lawful under ss. 934.03-934.09 for a person to intercept a wire, oral, or electronic communication when all of the parties to the communication have given prior consent to such interception.

    As I see it there is a huge difference between consent and notification. If I say “here have some money” that is consent, if you say “I am taking your money” that is notification.

    Any law dogs out there want to correct me if I am wrong?

  48. trollkiller says:

    @Catperson: Going by your logic you agree to being recorded for training and quality assurance. That binds them to using the recording ONLY for training and quality assurance, NOT legal action, promotion or any other use.

  49. trollkiller says:

    @Catperson: Sorry did not see your last post before typing.

  50. Catperson says:

    @Trollkiller: Well, that might actually be the case for all I know. I don’t know about legal action, but I’m pretty sure they would need a customer’s explicit permission to use a recording of their voice for a promotion. But I’m not just arguing that the purpose of the recording is what’s important. I’m arguing that who is doing the recording and who owns the recording is even more important.

  51. Catperson says:

    @Trollkiller: no prob. I made things clearer in that last post.

  52. bobskedeet says:

    What happens if the call center is in India or the Phillipines?

  53. goller321 says:

    @trollkiller: You consent is given by continuing the conversation. You could state that you do not consent to being recorded, in which case the company would need to turn off any recording devices (if the are in a two party state) before continuing, or end the call. But with the notification, your engaging in the conversation would be in itself, consent.

    As for Catperson… she sounds like a rep that has been fed some disinformation by an employer to get them to weasel out of possibly being recorded…

  54. brainswarm says:

    I once had to explain to a customer that just because the recording says you may be recorded doesn’t mean that it has been. She wanted me to get the recording of a conversation she had with some other phone monkey to prove that she was promised something that wasn’t documented. I had to explain to her that our system only trapped about ten conversations per week per agent, which were then listened to by supervisors so they could critique us, and were then deleted (if not needed for disciplinary action.)

  55. trollkiller says:

    @Catperson: You bring up a very interesting angle, not sure I agree with you but I do see where you are coming from.

    As for ownership of the recording… hmm. I know under copyright law the person that “fixes” it to the median is the copyright owner. If you both “fix” the call then you would each be owner of your respective recordings.

    Yeah I will have to disagree with you, both parties are giving prior consent to be recorded. (At least in Florida. Check the statute I posted)

  56. Catperson says:

    @Goller321: I’m not sure how anything I said could be construed as me representing a company trying to weasel out of being recorded. All I said was that it doesn’t count as consent if you use the company’s recording, and that’s just based on common sense. I am no longer a rep anywhere (thank God), but I don’t remember ever being told anything about what to say to customers who wanted to record a call. However, you bring up a good point. Most companies would disconnect the call if you actually told them you were recording it. That would seem to indicate they aren’t really giving consent to be recorded and wouldn’t appreciate it if a customer did record them.

  57. trollkiller says:

    @goller321: If you look at the Florida statute I posted it says all parties must give consent prior to the interception taking place. I saw nowhere in the chapter about implied consent.

    The recordings never say “if you don’t want to be recorded press #1″ they never say “if you do not consent please hang up and call this number”

    Wait I lie, I had to call either Virgin or Boost to activate a cell phone and one of them (sorry can’t remember) did say to tell the operator if you did not want to be recorded.

    The point is the customer is not given the question of consent, therefore is under no obligation to recind a consent never given.

  58. Landru says:

    Doesn’t the word “may” imply approval?

    It always says “This call may be recorded”, which I take as gives permission, as opposed to saying “This call may not be recorded”.

  59. trollkiller says:

    T@Landru: To me the word “may” means “has the possibility of”. Example: “I may stop by the store on my way home.”
    In the recordings case it tells me that not all the calls are recorded and this particular call may or may not be recorded. I have still not given consent nor has the recording asked me for my consent.

  60. Lyrai says:

    I actually had a caller the other day who tried the earlier “trick” mentioned on the consumerist. Right then and there I hung up on him saying that I don’t agree to be recorded.
    Frankly, I agree with reps hanging up on you if you even hint you’re recording. Because some of the people who call in a truly crazy. If someone called up and said before he began a description of his problem that he was touching himself to your voice, would you want him to record your call?
    @BigNutty: The instant you say you’re recording, I’d disconnect you without listening to anything else you have to say. As would 99% of the other people in call centers. “I’ll sue you if you don’t agree to my demands” is laughable and, sadly, a common thing said by callers.

  61. Jetfire says:

    When they give notification that it will be recorded it is usually not a person. What if you say that you are recording the conversation before the operator is actually on?

    If you record a conversation, and you sue the company and plan to use the recording in court, but it is deemed that it cannot be used as evidence, but you have memorized the conversation, can your testimony be used?

    What if you mail the company a letter that signifies that any calls to them will be recorded?

  62. HeHateMe says:

    @trollkiller: Let me ask you this: When is the last time you have heard of a company using a recording to pursue legal action against a customer?

    The calls are recorded for training and quality purposes. A company that I worked for had a quality group that would pull each rep off the phone to listen to 1 or 2 of their calls and they would then rate them [the calls]. They were ALWAYS deleted after 30-60 days unless there was something of special interest on the call (something the company wanted to keep to protect themselves, which I don’t recall ever happening). This was all done digitally on the computer and stored on the computer as well.

    I am amazed that people are acting so petty by trying to rationalize tricking a call center rep into allowing a call to be recorded. Then again, given the direction that consumers in the U.S. are heading these days I’m not really that surprised at all. And consumers are putting all of the blame on the companies. I think there is a lot of blame to go around and to be shared on both sides. Probably not equally, but consumers definitely aren’t 100% innocent. A few bad apples have ruined it for the bushel.

  63. StevieD says:

    I have a solution.

    Volunteer for a federal wire tap.

    Yes you can really volunteer for a federal wire tap. Actually you are authorizing the feds to tap if they so desire, which does not mean that they will actually tap the phone. And there has to be legal grounds for the tap, such as repeated phone calls from your cousin the escaped federal prisoner asking you to wire $ to his new home. But hey, if you got a reason, the Feds might just have a tap for you.

    Then whenever you call a customer service person you can honestly say that you participate in a legal federal wire tap and all calls MAY be recorded by the Federal Government.

    Which, according the foil beanie crowd, the Feds are recording every phone call, so may be we can just start reminding the Customer Service reps that our Dear Uncle is already recording every call and any other recording devices are redundant.

  64. trollkiller says:

    @HeHateMe: I don’t know of anytime that a generic “you may be recorded” call has ever been used in a court, but I have not researched the issue. To me it does not matter if they ever use the call in court, the point is I have not consented to the recording.

    I agree with trying to trick someone with the “I sound like you” bit. Seems that would get tossed in a heartbeat in court. If a reasonable person thinks it is a joke then it is a joke and unenforceable.

    If I am going to record someone that has not given consent by the generic recording, I will tell them straight out I am recording them. Fair is fair.

  65. Ratty says:

    Ok, two important things:

    One, you don’t know what state the actual call centre worker is in. Or even the country. Even if YOU are in a one-party state, who you speak to isn’t necessarily. You can’t just decide to record because of your location. Takes two to tango here. I work in a two-party consent state and we were told to hang up on anyone who said they were recording if they refused to stop.

    Two, when the calls are recorded for quality and training purposes that’s really it. They don’t keep the calls. They check on a few in a month to make sure you’re doing your job and then they’re all purged. So if you decide to be an irate customer demanding we listen to your call history, we really can’t do that either. The only way the calls may be used for other purposes is if you’re continually threatening people every time you call in. And i mean very harmful threats, not just “I’m going to sue you evil bastards!”

  66. trollkiller says:

    @Ratty: Does not matter where the caller on the other end of the line is, what matters is where you are if you are the one doing the recording. The act of intercepting the call is occuring where the person initiating the recording is.

    If you really want to get fancy the FCC regulates interstate calls and the interception law you would have to follow would be the Federal law. Except where the state law trumps the federal law. In this case the state law that would trump it would be the all party consent states.

    So where a one party consent state person COULD record without your consent, you being in an all party consent state COULD NOT record without consent.

  67. vastrightwing says:

    Easy, simply record the call and never mention it. If you end up in court, merely “refresh” your memory by transcribing the pertinent part of the conversation and claim you took copious notes during that call.

  68. trollkiller says:

    @vastrightwing: Stop it or you will kill off this thread…. I work nights and I need this to stop the boredom.

  69. Lyrai says:

    @HeHateMe:
    Quoted For Freaking Truth.

    Everyone is convinced that they can’t be the problem, it has to be the company. It can’t be the consumers, who sign up for something they think sounds neat, but when they later see it’s not so neat, they try and say they were tricked. It can’t be the consumers who demand $400 worth of free goods because of some imagined slight. It CAN’T be the consumers who start fights, prank call executives, sue their neighbors for asinine reasons, or who flat out cheat companies and are praised by everyone for doing so.

    Oh NO, it HAS to be the companies.

  70. attackgypsy says:

    I work in one of those customer service centers.

    When that say to word “may” as in “May be recorded”, you might as well just say “will” as in Will be recorded”. They use them for quality ratings for their techs.

    Of course, most of the time, the good techs get screwed over because they actually try to help someone, and they get a poor rating because they didn’t say something like the company wants them to.

    We have to apologize for everything. “I’m so sorry that you don’t know the difference between a monitor and a computer, and I apologize for any inconvenience.” How stupid is that?

  71. aikoto says:

    Ok for clarity, in a one party state, you don’t have to tell them you’re recording the call! That means you can just record it, period. I’ve done this and won a lawsuit against the state in Oregon.

  72. pointman_12 says:

    i live in a one party state not that it really matters…when i got dishtv they screwed me (what’s new)…when i called to complain and spoke to a supervisor i told him i had recorded the original call (even though i didn’t) and he told me it was illegal for me to do that…i told him it wasn’t and he asked if i was recording this call…i said maybe, maybe not and he hung up on me…my advice, tape the call…don’t tell the stupid supervisors at the call center you recorded the call…save that for the corporate office…

  73. legerdemain says:

    @Catperson: “May” can be used to mean “possibly,” as in: “your call will possibly be recorded.” “May” can also be used to mean “allowed,” as in “your call is allowed to be recorded.”

    The way most of these messages are phrased is ambiguous, not clearly imposing the intended sense of the word. You, the caller, may wish to record the call, for quality assurance purposes. In fact, that’s probably the only reason you’d care to record the call. Since the phrase may be interpreted either way, and either interpretation makes logical sense in context, I don’t see what the problem is.

    I think that the two party states need to impose some sort of “mandatory mutual consent” laws, so that both parties automatically have permission to record a conversation as soon as one party gains permission. In other words, there is never a case when only one party may and the other party may not record.

  74. Charles Duffy says:

    @Ratty: I’m not sure that matters. If they’re dealing with you, they’re likely to be doing business in your state, such that suing them in your own state’s court is likely to be effective. (Granted, they can try to remove the case to somewhere else, but there have to be more grounds for that than “we want to”).

    Anyhow, might as well record if you’re in a 1-party state or there’s reason to believe a recording is being made on the other end — the worst thing likely to happen is that a court will find your recording inadmissible when you try to use it. (The federal wiretapping laws I’m familiar with apply mostly to telcos, so there’s not much to worry about in terms of issues in federal court related to recording a call you’re party to)

    That said — IANAL, my business law class was a long time ago, and I haven’t had the time I was hoping for to read the wife’s textbooks. Certainly, you need to talk to a lawyer licensed in your state for actual legal advice.

  75. n8srq says:

    If I live in a two-party state but get a cell phone in a one-party state with an area code in the one-party state but then travel back to the two-party state and record the call from the cell phone is it legal?

  76. olegna says:

    I dunno. It seems that if both parties know a phone call is being recorded (which is what happens when THEY inform you and YOU give them permission by remaining on the line — because it’s not like you can decline and still get CSR help) then it’s irrelevant if you happen to ALSO be recording what THEY are ALSO recording because both parties know the phone call is being recorded, RIGHT????

    Seriously, that is a solid argument.

    Both parties know the phone call MIGHT be recorded, nowhere in the law does it state that once both parties know the call might or is being recorded that only the person who issued the notice has a right to record the call.

    I think that would stand in a court of law.

    In other words, once both parties know, the law doesn’t say that only one party has the right to actually do it. It’s a two-way agreement which gives you equal right to do what they’re doing to you.

  77. dame1234 says:

    @trollkiller: This was kind of related to the question that I was going to ask. I have an IL(two party) area code on my cell phone, but live in MO(one party). My thinking is that even though I have the IL area code, the calls are originating in MO, so I would be a one party caller. (keeping my phone in IL also saves me from a city cell tax of about 10%)

  78. savvy999 says:

    As someone who has dealt with setting up such a system, trust me, with modern VOIP systems, good audio compression algorithms, and cheap storage (1 TB for $200!) it is incredibly easy to record each and every conversation into a customer support line.

    If you are talking to a big financial institution/brokerage house, assume that you are being recorded 100% of the time. Credit card companies are iffy. Cable/utility companies, no way that they have upgraded yet, since they all outsource.

  79. Daniel-Bham says:

    Is there not some sort of implied consent if you are notified a call is being recorded in a two-party state?

    If you are notified on a recording that the phone call may be monitored, the CSR should be aware of this policy and has thus implied consent to be recorded. Then couldn’t you just record it at that point without notifying them further?

  80. Nytmare says:

    In PA (two party consent), the law specifically excepts call centers in allowing them to record calls “for quality purposes”. Citizens do not have the same right.

    So no, you can’t legally use the excuse that since they’re recording, you can too.

  81. Sunglo says:

    If the state from which the call is made or recieved is a single party state, then no notification is necessary as per Telephone Consumer Protection Act of 1991. If it is recieved outside the U.S. then Federal law allows the calling party to record. You can go to [www.fcc.gov] this might clear it up for you.

  82. olegna says:

    NYTMARE: I’m not sure you’re right on that, otherwise they wouldn’t have that disclaimer at the beginning of the call (which I heard all the time when I call different CSRs) — the one that says the “call may be recorded for quality control purposes”. (If it were legal for them to not inform you, why would this be a standard?? It’s not like corporations do things like that without being told to!)

    But regardless, my point (and the one by Daniel-Bham) in the cases where that disclaimer is played, the consent is implied and that means you’re cool to record, too. Seriously: the law doesn’t state that the consent only applies to the person asking for it. If both parties know the call is being recorded, then where in the law does it say only one party can legally do so????

    And whatever the case may be, if this ever came to trial, it would be something where a consumer caught a company doing something illegal. Let then try to “strike back” by trying to get the evidence dismissed or counter-suing for some ridiculous claim that recording a CSR conversation is a privacy violation and see how far that goes.

  83. othium says:

    I pay my bills and conduct business over the phone using Skype, and I record each transaction – taking notes while doing so (Dates, times, agent ID details, etc.) and back-up the data to either CD or USB storage drive. There has only been a couple instances where I have needed to present evidence from the data I collected in order to prevail in a dispute. Both times I attached the relevant audio file, summary of the agent’s actions, and identifying information, to my e-mail. It got immediate positive results and I was happy with both outcomes.

    Just peace of mind from knowing I am covered when something goes wrong with one of my transactions is worth the extra hassle to me. (It seems a bit over the top to some of my friends, but even they admit that it would have been helpful to have some sort of evidence when they have had problems dealing with some businesses in the past.)

    So glad I live in a “One-Party Consent” state (MN)!

  84. maddypilar says:

    @Miguel Valdespino: Exactly.

    Next time I hear “This call MAY be recorded for quality assurance purposes.” I will say, “Thank you, will do.”

  85. Tonguetied says:

    I know that the last several times I’ve been on hold and have heard the “Your call may be recorded line” I have also heard a followup of sorts saying “If you do not want the call to be recorded please notify your service representative”…

  86. douglips says:

    From actual California law, Penal code 632(c):

    (c) The term “confidential communication” includes any
    communication carried on in circumstances as may reasonably indicate
    that any party to the communication desires it to be confined to the
    parties thereto, but excludes a communication made in a public
    gathering or in any legislative, judicial, executive or
    administrative proceeding open to the public, or in any other
    circumstance in which the parties to the communication may reasonably
    expect that the communication may be overheard or recorded.

    This seems pretty cut and dried – if both parties reasonably expect that the communication may be recorded, then it isn’t illegal to record it. So when they say they may record the call, you’re free to record it. Make sure that you’ve heard them say this, and if you’re confused, just ask if THEY might be recording the call, and you’re in the clear.

    IANAL, don’t take this as legal advice, yadda yadda

  87. KJones says:

    Maddypilar has a great idea, recording it if the basta^H^H^H^H^Hcompany’s recording says that, but here’s another suggestion:

    Record the call, then type out a transcript and post it on Consumerist.com or send it to the CEO, or whatever cheeses them off. If a cafuffle arises and they deny it, _then_ let them know you recorded it and see if they change their tune, especially if you catch them lying.

    Personally, I don’t see why recording should be illegal if the recording is not used in a court of law or not heard by anyone other than those being recorded.

    Just because it’s not permitted doesn’t mean it’s wrong. Ask Rosa Parks.

  88. econobiker says:

    Look guys and gals, alot of calls are not only recorded but are run through a voice stress analysis program to verify you are really the account holder or are really going to pay your bill.

    If you get this then you will understand why they always ask for your name, birthday, last 4 of social security numbers, etc even when you enter or say this stuff into the phone before being connected.

  89. axiomatic says:

    Word to the wise:

    Get the CSR’s name and identifying number FIRST before any other conversation is had. This way, if they hang up on you, you have it recorded and can make a specific complaint about them when you do finally get to management.

  90. @Lyrai: It’s called The Consumerist not The Corporation. I don’t really need to link to the multitude of stories here where the company rips off the consumer, do I?

    I’m surprised there’s so much talk about whether or not these recordings would be admissible in court when it is much more likely that we’ll just post them on the Internet anyway.

  91. Benstein says:

    I don’t care what the law says, I am going to record all calls without giving notice. If and when I determine that I need legal action, I will present the recordings to my lawyer and she can determine if it is legal to present these as evidence.

    The whole reason to record in the first place is if the dispute is over a trivial matter (such as an AOL account) and it does not make financial sense to hire a lawyer. Then you can use the recordings (while editing out your information) to anonymously embarrass the company.

  92. RvLeshrac says:

    @trollkiller:

    In a situation where the federal courts have original jurisdiction (interstate calling, interstate trade), the federal law applies and the state law does not, regardless of the relative strengths of the laws, assuming that you will file any complaint with the federal courts. That said, if the call is to a company which is based in your state, if you have allowed the company to assign jurisdiction (most contracts state the jurisdiction in which all disputes are to be considered), or file suit in a local court, the specified jurisdiction applies.

  93. RvLeshrac says:

    @econobiker:

    Wow, I don’t think I’ve ever heard a bigger, more steaming pile of horseshit.

    I don’t even think I need to explain why that’s utterly wrong. I hope that you were being facetious.

  94. RvLeshrac says:

    @dame1234:

    You would need evidence to back up the claim that you were calling from the one-party state with a two-party state’s area code, but sure.

  95. RvLeshrac says:

    @legerdemain:

    “One party” legally means that you can record without notifying the individual on the other end of the phone. “Two party” means that notice was given. “Two Party” does not mean that *BOTH* parties have to ask each other the question.

  96. RvLeshrac says:

    @pointman_12:

    If asked, lying or being ambiguous about the recording will make it inadmissible, unless you’re law enforcement and are involved in an official operation with dotted Is and crossed Ts.

  97. tomcatpassword says:

    A light bulb just lit, try this out. You are not allowed to record when it may likely expose evil. Recording to give one an edge over government or corporate entities is expressly forbidden and may be punished. So from now on, just tell everyone your recording. I know I will…, How about some good citizen making a site for posts of corporations hanging disconnects after disclosure. Stop trying to bend the laws, we can not win. Now for real business, think about the Iraqi citizens and their rights. If it can happen there, it can happen here. People are never worried about rights until it happens to them.

  98. Difdi says:

    I live in Washington State and the way I do it, is the first thing I say, before even giving my name, is something like “Since I live in a 2-party consent state, and I don’t want anyone to fall victim to felony wiretap charges, I give my consent that this call may be recorded.” IANAL, but I do believe that would meet the test for two-party notification, since their recorded message says they may be recording, and I’ve just notified them that the call may be recorded (though using a somewhat different definition of the word ‘may’).

  99. corinthos says:

    What happens when they have to call someone else or contact another person. I’ve been on the phone with a business before and they reached out to a local store to see if they had the part instock and cut me a check and reimburse me for it. Whenever the guy calls the store I doubt he tells them it is being recorded.

  100. chrisinnh says:

    Here’s an interesting excerpt found in a google book search.

    Compilation of State and Federal Privacy Laws
    By Robert Ellis Smith, James Sulanowski

    From page 24, talking about Washington state:

    Washington-Electronic interception of communications is permitted if all parties to the conversation consent. An announcement by one party that the call is being recorded complies with the two-party consent requirement.

    My read on this is the same as some other commenters. If the company says “may be recorded”, then both parties have consented.

    You consent, by staying on the phone.
    The call center rep consents by holding the position.

    The laws seem to be looking only for consent to being recorded, not consent to being recorded ONLY BY A SPECIFIC PARTY.

    Further, the “may be recorded” sounds like explicit permission to record. If that’s not what was intended, the notice should have been “this call MIGHT be recorded”.

    No ambiguity that way.

    Ooh, and for no-notice, call tapers in one-party states, have a google at Kearney v. Salomon Smith Barney, Inc., S124739 (Sup. Ct. Cal. July 13, 2006)

    In that case, the state of CA (two party state) sued SSB for recordings of Californians made without notice in SSB’s GA (one party consent) call center.

    /chris