Legal Considerations of Voice Logging

By Peter DeHaan

Peter DeHaan, Publisher and Editor of Connections MagazineLegal issues regarding the recording of phone calls must be considered before embarking on voice logging. This varies on a state-by-state basis. Some states and countries require “one-party notification” in which only one of the two individuals needs to be made aware that the call is being recorded. This, of course, is most easily done by notifying the call center agents. This should be part of the employee handbook they receive upon being hired. By them signing off on the handbook, it has been documented that they have been duly notified that the recording will take place. Check with a local attorney familiar with state employment law, as it may be advisable to have a separate sheet signed by each employee, which explicitly notifies him or her that calls will be recorded. (At least thirty-seven US States, the District of Columbia, the US Federal law, Canada, and England only require one-party notification. Note that there is some disagreement over the determination of the requirements for a few states.)

The other scenario requires that both parties be made aware that the call is being recorded; these are called “two-party notification” states. (Depending on the source, there are ten to thirteen US states that fit this category.)  This can be accomplished by playing a preamble recording on every call or inserting a periodic beep tone.

The preamble recording is common, but may prove to be a technical challenge to do so on every account. There is also the concern of how to respond to client’s who object to an automated announcement before every one of their calls. Typical verbiage for the announcement or preamble recording is, “Thank you for calling ABC Company, your call may be monitored for training or quality assurance purposes.”

Alternately, many voice logging systems provide an optional beep tone. There are specific parameters to which this beep must adhere. According to VLR Communications, the beep tone needs to be a 1260 to 1540 Hertz tone, lasting 170 to 250 milliseconds, and broadcast for both sides to hear every twelve to fifteen seconds when recording is taking place. The interesting part of this requirement is that both parties must be able to “hear” the beep tone; there is no measurable audio level specified. Therefore, it makes sense to set the beep level at a low volume, while still being audible to both parties. Still, many people find this beep tone to be disconcerting and distracting. Although call center agents typically grow used to the beep tone and eventually tune it out (the rest, unfortunately, often end of quitting), this is not the case with callers, who generally find the ongoing beeping to be an annoying vexation. Callers may even discuss the beep tone or voice recording with the agents, thereby lengthening call time and decreasing the quality of service.

Five websites contain information about notification. However, they are not in complete agreement. This results in three different scenarios, listing ten to thirteen states that require two-party notification. Nine states are listed as two-party notification states by all five sources: California, Connecticut, Florida, Maryland, Massachusetts, Montana, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, and Washington. There is contradicting information for four states, which are listed both ways, depending on the source. These are: Delaware, Illinois, Michigan, Nevada. Michigan, for example, is listed as a two-party notification state on four of the five websites, yet two call centers in the state have separately had their attorneys research state law and court interpretation. Both lawyers independently concluded that only one-party notification is required for voice logging calls in a call center environment.

Regardless of this information, be sure to consult a local attorney for their opinion and guidence before proceeding with any recording of phone calls.

Also, there are privacy concerns and issues. In general, one should take every possible precaution to avoid recording personal phone calls. A practical way of doing so is to only record conversations in the call center (and explicitly not in the breakroom or on any common area telephone) and to have an enforced policy against placing or receiving personal phone calls while in the operations room. These steps will help to ensure that personal phone calls are not inadvertently recorded and that privacy rights are not encroached. Again, obtain legal counsel before recording any phone calls.

[From Connection MagazineDecember 2002]