Is it Legal To Record Your Own Customer Service Calls?

Whenever we talk about recording customer service calls, someone always chimes in about wiretap laws. While far from being lawyers, we think it’s okay and here’s why.

1) A business is not a private party.
2) The business does not “have a reasonable expectation of privacy.” If they’re “recording the call for quality assurance purposes,” how can they expect the call to be confidential?
3) When people are prosecuted under wiretap law, it’s nearly always because of something else. The call was used to expose a murderer, or a political sex scandal. Not that they’re late in shipping your copy of Guitar Hero.
4) A company is more likely to sue the call’s publisher.
5) A PR meltdown would ensue from a company prosecuting a customer in this manner. And frankly,
6) They have better things to do.

For ultimate safety, the states that do require consent of all parties are listed in this chart.

You can’t make a cup of coffee without being liable for a dozen violations. But we encourage the plucky to record and send us their customer service calls. We got your back.


Edit Your Comment

  1. Tiger says:

    It may not be legal or admisable in court. But it is fun to play back to a supervisor of a company that is jerking you around and threaten to go public with the call. Then to post it all of the internet. Vincent F. is my hero.

  2. Gari N. Corp says:

    Yeah, I’m one of the troll-like creatures that has made this point before, and I always ignored one important element:

    “This call may be monitored for quality assurance purposes”

    Seems to me that in most CSR interractions both of you know you’re being taped anyway.

  3. bambino says:

    Slow news day already?

  4. Smoking Pope says:

    In AZ, where I live, only one of the parties needs to be aware of a recorded call. And I can tell you it’s a great way to nail people. And if you’re going into a call where you know it’s going to be contentious, you’d be amazed at how their behavior changes when you tell them up front you’re going to be recording the call.

  5. The pic for this post would be a cool t-shirt.

  6. RandomHookup says:

    Smoking Pope: Thanks. I’ve been looking to nail some people…. Oh, you mean get them in trouble. Never mind.

  7. Sam Glover says:

    Wiretapping, FYI, is when you record a conversation to which you are not a party.

  8. Wow, no lawyers read this website? I get to put that crap I was forced to memorize for the bar a month ago to use! Hooray!

    Whenever you make a phonecall, generally you risk the possibility that the person you’re talking to is unreliable, i.e. a stoolie or a jerk, and is recording your conversation or allowing someone to listen in. My knowledge of actual wiretap law is lacking, but generally I thought they were designed to codify constitutional warrant requirements (basically, probable cause for invading one’s reasonable expectation of privacy) before setting up wiretaps sans the consent of either party.

    So in other words, if you’re recording YOUR OWN phonecalls, you aren’t invading anyone’s privacy. It’s exactly the same as your right to videotape or photograph people in a public area.

  9. Ishmael says:

    Where’s Eyebrows McGee? She’s a lawyer. Damn lawyers, never around when you need one.

    /I can say that
    //Daddy was a lawyer

  10. Sam Glover says:

    Sup? Lawyer here. And like I said, recording your own phone calls is not wiretapping by definition. However, it is still illegal in some states, as the link Ben posted will show you.

  11. “Where’s Eyebrows McGee?”

    Well, I have house guests. :D But I sent Consumerist the RCFP link for the state-by-state listing of phone taping laws!

    In the case of taping your own phone calls, you’re better looking for precedents of what journalists are allowed to do — they frequently tape phone calls for the simple reason of ensuring they get quotes correct in phone interviews, and are typically diligent about ensuring they get appropriate permissions to record — than at wiretapping.

  12. factotum says:

    So, as a Californian, I can state, “This call is being recorded. If you do not wish to proceed, hang up now; otherwise your failure to end this call is consent to being recorded.”