What is the law on recording voice calls?

There is no room for error when it comes to the legality of recording voice calls. Failure to comply with the requirements that govern recording a conversation with a colleague or customer could result in substantial costs and significant reputational damage.

As businesses try to keep pace with developments in communications services, the sheer amount of legislation that governs privacy and customers’ rights can be overwhelming. Understanding the intricacies of the law is not always easy, particularly for smaller business without dedicated legal departments. To simplify matters, we have prepared this short guide to the basics of call recording law.

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Dos and don’ts

There are five essential pieces of legislation to be aware of with regard to recording calls:

› Data Protection Act 1998
› Human Rights Act 1998
› Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act 2000
› Telecommunications Regulations 1999
Telecommunications Regulations 2000

Of course not everyone needs to memorise these acts before picking up the phone. But a general awareness of the acts can help businesses to understand best practice for recording phone calls, and help staff to pick out the information that is most relevant to their job, such as:

› It is perfectly legal to record and monitor calls if the purpose is to provide evidence of a business transaction, to ensure compliance with a set of regulations, or to secure the effective operation of the telecom system.
› Recording calls to see that national security standards are being upheld carries no legal threat, if it is applicable to your line of work. Likewise if the purpose is to detect or prevent a crime.
› Any recording you make must be relevant to your business and that your business must retain the recording.
› If you plan to store your customers’ personal information, make sure that you are registered with the Information Commissioner’s Office.
› You must tell the caller that they are being recorded.

‘This call is being recorded’

The popularisation of call centres means that companies have a greater number of people acting as the public face of their brand. Call monitoring allows companies to keep on top of how they are perceived in the eyes (or ears) of their customers. It is the main reason a business will record calls.

Most of the time, an automated notification will inform the caller the call is being recorded before they speak to a member of staff. The notification probably goes over most peoples’ heads. But Ofcom’s guidelines state that businesses must make every reasonable effort to inform all parties that the call is being recorded. This allows companies to protect themselves against legal problems resulting from call recording.

A record of a company/customer conversation is also helpful in the unfortunate event of a transaction going wrong or a dispute.

While it may primarily be larger organisations with call centres that give automated notifications, smaller businesses without the capacity to do so can still easily comply with the guidelines. A pre-recorded message or a spoken warning by the operator would is the most direct solution. But a written warning included in publicity materials or a telephone directory would also be acceptable, depending on the circumstances.

By putting any of these steps into practice, businesses are able to record calls lawfully. If in doubt, the best approach for an organisation is to prioritise caution. Try and speak to Ofcom or your company’s solicitor for advice that won’t leave you ruing a potentially costly, but entirely innocent, error.

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12 August 2015 | Cem Ahmet

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The views in this article are the personal views of the author and are not necessarily endorsed by Gamma.