Who Has Legal Access to Call Recordings?

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Who Has Legal Access to Call Recordings?

September 09, 2016

Call recording can be a slippery slope if used improperly. For instance, recording someone without their knowledge can land your company in some pretty hot water. This is why most contact centers have the standard message that informs callers that their conversation may be recorded. This message is the first thing the caller hears after dialing, so it is implied that if they continue with the call, they accept that the conversation will be recorded. This is all well and good, but who does that recording belong to? Does the company have sole access to the recording, or can callers listen to it as well?

Cathy Cunningham asks this same question in her column for the Chicago Tribune. In her article, she describes an issue she had with Comcast, in which she believed she was not receiving what was promised to her during the phone call. The representative checked the recording and came to the conclusion that the conversation supported his claim, not her’s. In a logical step, Cunningham requested to listen to the recording for herself, but was told she could not access it because it belonged to Comcast.

She raises this question by saying, “In the case of online chat conversations, a customer can save a text transcript. In the case of live voice calls, unless the customer has the resources to make their own recording (and does so before having any idea a problem might arise), only the company has access to any tangible record.”

This is an interesting point. If customers can never listen to the recorded call, how do they know whether or not the representative is telling the truth? You’d like to assume that they are, but sometimes it’s best to check for yourself.  So, is there a law anywhere that supports the caller’s right to phone recordings? Lou Chronowski, attorney at Chicago law firm Seyfarth Shaw LLP, says no.

“If Comcast does not have a policy allowing a customer to listen to a customer service recording, there is really no way for a customer to demand access to the recording absent filing a lawsuit,” Chronowski said. “Comcast would be required to comply with an order or subpoena issued by a court in a lawsuit. However, Comcast likely has record retention guidelines that govern how long it keeps such recordings, so the recording may not be available by the time a subpoena is served. In any event, it is unlikely that the customer will want to file a lawsuit here given the expense.”

If you find yourself in this situation, Chronowski suggests asking to speak to a Comcast supervisor (or whichever provider you are dealing with). If all else fails, you could always make your own recording of the call. He warns, though, that it is imperative to inform the representative that they are being recorded. Like with the call center message, if the representative continues with the call after being told about the recording, they are consenting to it.

So, whether you work at a contact center or are the caller, it’s important to know your rights and what is available to you. By using call recording appropriately, both sides can ensure that they are receiving the best experience possible.

Edited by Stefania Viscusi

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