Can I Make Companies Give Me A Copy Of My Customer Service Call?

“This call may be recorded for quality assurance and training purposes.” Yes, but can I get a copy of it? Not unless you made one yourself.

After one of our readers called customer service at a company, he really wanted a copy of it. The why is not important, but the company denied his request several times, saying “these recordings are for internal use only unfortunately, we will be unable to send you a copy of that conversation.” So our reader asked us if there was some way he could force the company to send him a copy. “Some type of “freedom of information act” [not exactly, but along those lines]???” he queried. The short answer is “nope.”

We did some checking with various lawyers and regulatory bodies and found that there’s only two instances in which you can get a company to fork up a copy of a customer service call. If you’re a victim of identity theft, under the Fair Credit Reporting Act you can get a copy of a call the fraudster made in which they conducted a transaction using your information. This is provided that the call was recorded and a copy of the recording was saved.

The other situation would be as part of discovery in a lawsuit, but neither scenario means you can just call up and get them to fork it over.

So, sorry, this call may be recorded, but it’s not for you, unless you make your own customer service call recordings at home. (My fave way to do it is Skype + Mp3CallRecorder)


Edit Your Comment

  1. Skellbasher says:

    Just remember that 12 states are two party notification states, so all parties to the call must be aware that the call is recorded. IE, you have to tell the CS agent that you’re recording them.

    Look in advance if you’re planning to do this.

    • Skyhawk says:

      Correct. Unless the CSR first states that the call might be recorded. Once they say that, that meets the two-party notification requirement and there is no need to tell them that you are recording the call.

    • Murph1908 says:

      There have been debates on this.

      It is my opinion (IANAL) that if you call and get the message that the call may be recorded, I can assume that the agent also knows that it may be recorded.

      But I would probably protect myself by saying something like, “Are you recording this call?” If the agent says that it’s a possibility, then you are in the clear.

      Bottom line, even if you are in a 1 party state, if you call a 2 party state, you fall under their jurisdiction regarding recording of the call.

    • Luckier says:

      True, in a two-party consent state, you must both agree to the recording of a call. You agree by recording the call. The CS agent agrees by its company playing the “your call may be recorded” message. In other words, the CS agent’s agreement doesn’t have to be that YOU record the call, just that the call is recorded — they’ve already agreed before you even dial the phone.

      • squirrel says:

        Didn’t this come up before with who… AOL?

        They state *they* may record *your* call, but if you tell them they are being recorded, the response from the company/rep is usually to terminate the call. That is, they do not give consent.

        “Your call may be recorded” means: They may record your call. Not the other way around.

        • MarkSweat says:

          It’s all in the phrasing. If they say “this call may be recorded”, that equals consent. “May” has multiple definitions, one of which is a granting of permission. If they say “this call will be recorded”, it is a statement of action, not consent. So, they would need to explicity hear from you that you are recording.

    • Branden says:

      every single time i’m told the call is being recorded i tell them i’m recording it as well. never actually done it, but it seems to prompt them to take my call more seriously and (gasp) maybe provide real customer service.

      • keith4298 says:

        I’ve had CSR’s (Chase especially) tell me that if I record the call they are hanging up. As for the double notification rule – one way around it is to mimic the recording when someone comes on the line – say it back to them. No one ever thinks that you are giving a statement….

        • calchip says:

          That wouldn’t hold up, neither would Ron Burley’s mimicking. It’s the intent that matters. If you say it with the intent that they not think you’re serious, then they haven’t really been notified.

          As far as I know, this hasn’t been tested in court, but I’ve read several legal opinions that make it clear this isn’t a method they’d want to try to defend.

        • BuyerOfGoods3 says:

          man…if you got this on tape, it just may go viral – I’d love to hear that.

        • dragonfire81 says:

          The call center I used to work at that had a similar rule, only I first had to get a Supervisor as they were the only ones who could actually hang up on someone who was recording.

          This was a company wide policy. I remember the document in our knowledge base pertaining to recording calls and it specifically stated call recording by customers would not be tolerated and outlined the policy I mentioned above to deal with such situations.

    • pokinsmot says:

      But by telling you that they (the company) are recording the call, aren’t they already consenting on their end?

      • AnonymousCoward says:

        That’s what I’ve read elsewhere, yes. If they tell you they’re recording, then they’ve just given you permission to record.

    • Tim says:

      Right. But don’t confuse notification with consent. You don’t need to ask permission to record the call, you just need to say “I’m recording this call.”

      • kcvaliant says:

        Just say it really quickly like on a radio commercial.. That way they will have to get out their recording after the phone call is done to understand what you said by slowing it down.. By then the conversation is complete and they are red in the face..

    • Rachacha says:

      The question is…if you record a call, and no one else hears it (i.e. you recorded for your own personal records, or so you did not have to take notes during the call) would that still be illegal…It is not like the police are going to come knocking at your door looking for random calls with CSR call centers. Recording laws I presume were enacted to prevent stalking/blackmale and to limit what could/could not be admissable in a court of law. But of course, IANAL.

      • Tankueray says:

        Whoa, spell check friend…no need to be racist. /sarcasm

        I record everything anyway. While it wouldn’t be admissible in court, I can always create detailed notes of my recordings in order to prove my point. Unless you catch someone you’re recording in something terribly illegal, it’s unlikely your recording will ever need to see the light of day.

        I live in a one party state, but something I learned was that it’s only good if there are two parties on the call, if a third person is on, you have to have at least two parties consenting. IANAL, so I cant tell you what happens when more than three are on, and of course I’ve never needed to put it into practice, I’m just saying.

      • mythago says:

        IAAL. Skellbasher’s advice is wise. All you have to do is inform the CSRs that you are also recording the conversation. This is nothing to goof around with.

    • Quake 'n' Shake says:

      But if you record the call in the woods, did it really happen?

    • Difdi says:

      Simple answer: Say “I acknowledge the recorded warning your phone system gave me that the call may be recorded, and grant my permission that it may be recorded. I live in a two-party consent state, and I wouldn’t want you to get arrested for this phone call.”

      That establishes that you are aware of the recording, informs the CSR that the company may be listening (they of course know, but legally speaking, it’s safer this way), and states that you may be recording as well, without actually affirmatively stating that you are doing so (most CSRs are required by their corporate policy to hang up on you if you make such an affirmative statement).

      • pzer0 says:

        That’s something I find very troubling. They can record the call, but as soon as you say YOU are recording THEM, they hang up. What do these companies have to hide? Oh wait, I read this website so I know the answer: PLENTY! :-P

    • sonneillon says:

      Legally they both need to be notified. They have told you that the phone call is being recorded. Since they told you that it is assumed that they know the conversation is being recorded. I have not seen any case law that would suggest otherwise and the law just says they both have to know. They told you so they know. Record away.

      • mythago says:

        “The law” varies state by state. Which state are you talking about? Have you researched case law in all of them?

        • sonneillon says:

          Of course not. That is a lot of work. Find a case that proves me wrong where one side notified the other side and the side that was notified was held liable for recording also.

  2. Jason says:

    Most companies don’t record every call anyways. When I worked at Wells Fargo as a phone agent, they recorded 7-10 of our calls each month and graded us on 5 of them. The remaining calls were incase the others might have been hangups or some difficulties. On average I took 85-95 calls a day so the chance that your call was recorded was minor.

    • backinpgh says:

      Yeah, notice how they usually say “This call MAY be recorded for quality and training purposes.” They only record the calls randomly once in a while to check up on the CSRs.

      • jefeloco says:

        While I was doing time in a T-Mo call center the supervisor could pull up ANY call that I received in the last month. We would get sat down 2-3 times a month to go over calls that we took and they would even show us a complete list and my sup would jokingly let me choose the call that we listened to together.

        They would single out a timeframe from when someone might have been exhibiting certain behaviors and choose a long call if someone was acting strange; otherwise the sup would snag a 3-5 minute call.

        • Corinthos says:

          ATT Wireless is about the same way excite that only about a quarter of the calls are recorded. Depending on your manager they will let you pick the call to listen to so I always write down exact call times and dates of great calls to pick one to listen to.

    • Corinthos says:

      Same here at my job also if I keep my task manager open I can tell which calls are being recorded. Probably less than 25% for my call center job.

    • SonarTech52 says:

      We record 100% of calls.

    • shepd says:

      That must have been a while ago. At my wife’s jobs they recorded all calls, and at mine they not only recorded them, but kept them forever, too.

    • Jonbo298 says:

      Actually, Wells records nearly every call now since I work there. A few miss I’ve noticed in past when I asked my supervisor to listen to it for one reason or another, but the majority are recorded now with the whole economy tanking and more legal issues going on.

  3. COBBCITY says:

    I doubt most companies would know how to grab the recording of one phone call and send it to the customer. Also “may be recorded” does not mean your call was. The can claim it wasn’t and you can’t prove otherwise.

    I write companies whenever possible so I have a written record of what was communicated,

  4. kc2idf says:

    I would suppose that if you were taking legal action, that the recording would be discoverable. I am, however, not a lawyer, so I don’t know if this is true or not.

    • Tim says:

      I’m not a lawyer either, but yeah, there’s a pretty good chance you’re right about that.

    • BBBB says:

      “I would suppose that if you were taking legal action, that the recording would be discoverable.”

      Yes, but they will claim that they didn’t record that call or that it was already deleted – as long as that is consistent with company procedures, you would not be able to do much about it.

      [If you could prove that they destroyed it after they were notified about the legal action, then you would have a great argument for the case. There was some big case a while ago where one side claimed they could not find the evidence requested during discovery and the judge ruled that the other side’s description of the evidence would be taken as true.]

  5. canaguy says:

    YES, the article is correct for CANADA as well……
    So I often mention ‘up front’ that I am also recording ‘for the record’
    and that transcripts will be made if needed……..
    THIS IS the most assured way to get STRAIGHT to a SUPERVISOR with authority to handle a customer complaint…….!!!
    SKYPE user here for 5 years …….NO MORE Cell or Landline expenses….!!!

    • shockwaver1 says:

      RANDOM capitalization…!!! FOR the WIN…!!!

      Seriously hard TO READ!!!!!

      • jefeloco says:

        Random capitalization works when you’re a Brit and trying to add emphasis to certain words (completely normal for those odd ducks), but random capslock shouldn’t be used for that unless you are, in reality, a badger.

    • EarthAngel says:

      “So I often mention ‘up front’ that I am also recording ‘for the record'”

      I am instructed to disconnect the call. I hope you weren’t hoping to actually accomplish anything with that line.

  6. Sunflower1970 says:

    Our company records each and every call. I can get copies of them if I need to verify something in a call I took (like once I accidentally wiped out an entire order for someone I had just taken over the phone. I was able to ask my manager to send me the call so I could re-enter the data.) We’ve had customers who wanted to listen to the calls before, and we’ve allowed them to to so. I know of one instance of them actually coming in to hear it. Most of the time the manager will play the call and hold the phone up to the speaker so the customer can hear it. We’ve never emailed a copy of the recording to someone, though. Don’t think we’d actually do that…

  7. Skellbasher says:

    I record every call made in our customer service and sales departments. I have a copy of every call made for the last 4 years stored on a 2TB storage array. ( Every 6 months I convert the raw WAV recording down to a compressed version to save on storage space. )

    On any modern PBX, it’s very easy to have every call recorded and archived, even with significant call volumes. Assuming that companies just spot record calls isn’t a good assumption to make.

    • RandomMutterings says:

      We do the same thing — all calls are recorded to WAV and eventually compressed to save space. This has saved our bacon — business-wise — on more than one occasion. We are in a 1 party state.

  8. trey says:

    if you live in a 1 party notification state and call a 2 party notification state then you are bound by the 1 party notification by the federal government. remember, when you cross state lines it becomes a federal issue

    dont make assumptions… read the facts…

    While the U.S. federal law only requires one-party consent, many states have accepted different laws. In some states all parties must give their consent or at least be notified that the call is about to be recorded (with necessary opt-out option: if you don’t like them to record the call, you can ask them to stop recording). There also was a case law decision from many years ago (the 1950’s) that went to the Supreme Court and affirmed that the federal law does not supersede state authority/statutes unless the call or the tap crosses state lines – that is why each state went ahead and established their own guideline/statute.

    • Difdi says:

      Unfortunately, many states have what are called Long Arm statutes. If you commit what is a crime in the state you’re calling, mailing to or otherwise doing business with, but is not a crime in your state, you might still be subject to arrest warrants and extradition. The fact that what you did isn’t illegal on the physical ground you were standing on at the time will not save you from prison.

      Might be interesting to challenge a Long Arm statute that contradicts federal law, on grounds of interstate commerce being regulated by the feds, not the states…but you would probably lose.

  9. sanjaysrik says:

    I tried this once where I announced to the CSR that I was also recording the conversation and immediately, I was put on with a supervisor who said that I wasn’t allowed to do that. i asked if it’s okay for them why not me? He said it’s their “policy” for training purposes, I siad it was my “policy” to make sure what I said and what they agree to was on the record so there could be no dispute about it later. They had a really big issue with MY recording the call but If you don’t agree to let them do it, you have no chance of speaking with customer service. How does one trump the other? If it’s good for the goose, why not the gander?

    • prismatist says:

      Depending on your local law, you don’t have to tell them. Then just for fun, tell them at the end of the call!

    • Krang Krabowski says:

      there are other forms of communication to use…. e-mail, chat, in person. but realize that when the company put in the message we’re recording, that means you have the option to continue or the option to use a different venue. also if you tell the agent that you turned off your recorder and then you continue recording. it’s not gonna hold. Some companies require you contact their legal department when you state that you’re recording and the conversation will go no further.

  10. jsl4980 says:

    I interned at a large ISP about 6 years ago. They did record every call and kept them for at least a few weeks. I saw a few customer service reps have to listen back to the calls with their managers after customer complaints. It’s a good way of training CSRs and it’s a good way to cover your ass if customers make things up in their complaints.

  11. RandomMutterings says:

    I believe you can also get copies of call recordings made in the ordinary course of business if you are involved in a law suit — i.e., by subpeona as ‘business records.’

    • fantomesq says:

      Yes but good luck showing that they actually make and keep recordings of every call and for what time period they keep them in the normal course of business when they fail to produce the recording. They may well destroy the recordings in the normal course of business before they have notified of their evidentiary value. Good luck proving otherwise.

  12. keith4298 says:

    You can always subpoena the call – but that requires a court case.

  13. Liam Kinkaid says:

    I just wanted to point out that that call center guy in the picture is uber yummy. I’d let him [double entendre regarding call recording and adult activities] me any day of the week.

  14. Erik_H says:

    You should change the title to … OTHER than via a lawsuit.

    The discovery process in a lawsuit allows you to obtain copies of all records, including tapes of customer service calls.

  15. Dopaz says:

    Also look for the DLI Personal Logger
    Works with any landline and even office phones. We use them here at work and love them.

  16. coren says:

    “This call may be recorded”

    Well, thanks for permission!

    • sykl0ps says:

      That is what I always think that means. Especially if they say it is to ensure good customer support.

  17. EarthAngel says:

    I once told somebody I didn’t want to be recorded and the rep just about had a heart attack (“please hold”). A full five minutes later he came back to tell me that his supervisor said there was no way for them not to record the conversation.

    So you’re recording the conversation, which you can’t stop…and I can’t get a transcript? How is that customer service?

  18. JohnA says:

    I like the idea of recording Customer Service calls, and had bought into the idea that I never had to notify when recording my own calls since I live in CO by reading the guidance on some of the linked pages. I eventually found this on the FTC website (

    “The FCC protects the privacy of telephone conversations by requiring notification before a recording device is used to record interstate (between different states) or international wireline calls. Interstate or international wireline conversations may not be recorded unless the use of the recording device is:

    *preceded by verbal or written consent of all parties to the telephone conversation; or”

    The FCC site tells you how to find your state laws. I would check official Fed or State laws before I record.

  19. BBBB says:

    My Health Plan information line has the “we may record this call…” but also has a disclaimer that nothing said over the phone is binding on them – only what it in the contract is binding. I asked about getting a binding approval that a test was covered and I was told that they cannot give that – if they decide it is not covered I will be left with the bill

    This happened to me – I was told over the phone that it was covered and then they denied it. When I complained they referred to the disclaimer.
    (The hospital then multiplied the bill by 2.5 since they were no longer bound by a negotiated rate.)
    [After a long battle and getting them on a technicality, the hospital accepted the negotiated rate as full payment.]

  20. tdatl says:

    I worked for a short time at a call center that took calls for several big names, some of the most well-known companies in the world. Presumably the calls had that little disclaimer at the beginning of each, and I’m certain they told both the CSRs and the clients that calls were being recorded, but in reality nothing was. This was prior to the national Do Not Call list when states ran their own, and this place never bothered buying them until they got sued (Kansas sued while I was there).

    It was unreal. They also lied to the megaclients about their security and networking infrastructure. I was on a call with one where my boss was just telling them what they wanted to hear, though none of it was true. We had atrocious security — nothing got approved for purchase because of cost; they just told clients they had purchased it. Clients’ ‘due diligence’ seemed to consist of detailed questionnaires whose phony answers they took as the truth. I always figured the guy getting the bonus for saving so much money was long gone by the time the shit ever hits the fan, assuming it ever does. It was quite an eye-opening experience.

    This is where all the great security measures in the world break down. The banks really do have extensive security measures in place, but once your info is going to some of these call centers, it’s over. I’m sure not all are as bad as this one was, but it wasn’t exactly a mom-and-pop operation. They had hundreds of employees in two big centers.

  21. Bob says:

    Personally I think the two-party explicit consent law is now obsolete and stupid because after one party notifies the other that the call is being recorded then continuing to be on the call should be implied consent. The two-party consent laws were enacted when recording a call was only affordable by a few large companies. Since you can buy devices that record calls or use your answering machine to record a call (wait to pick up after the greeting message plays) the two-party explicit consent laws should be abolished unless you want a gold mine for the lawyers.

  22. peebozi says:

    business rights > personal rights.

  23. LisaLisa says:

    My old company only recorded a small percentage, and they were actually really difficult for people to pull after the fact. If it was even recorded, the ability to find and download the call based on the caller was pretty limited. They mostly recorded it to look at general topics… for example, they’d tag calls “credit line increase” and review those calls to see what customers were saying or upset about. It wasn’t used for much else besides that, at least outside of the call center.

  24. SJ says:

    You can record calls with google voice. Just press 4 after the person picks up.

  25. SkuldChan says:

    Depending on the call center – the call may have not even been recorded. I know at Stream we switched to a new front end for one contract and could no longer even sort out who’s calls were who’s for a good long time, and even then – not ever call was recorded – it was random or by agent request.

  26. isUsername says:

    I don’t believe that is correct. In Canada, (I believe) you have the right to any recording that contains your personal information:

  27. Aaron says: allows you to navigate customer service phone trees AND record your calls.