Ask LH: Can I Record Calls If The Company Is Recording Me?

Hi Lifehacker, There have been a lot of stories recently from the US about customers recording calls to demonstrate how bad customer service can be. I’m wondering if it’s legal to do that in Australia.

It seems any large business you call uses the “your call may be recorded for training and quality assurance purposes” line. Having heard that line, can we also record the calls ourselves, or do we need to ask them for consent too?

Recording Now

Picture: Getty Images

Dear RN,

Both the law and simple courtesy produce the same answer here: if you want to record a customer service call, then you should let the person involved know. That’s the case even if you’ve been told that your call may be recorded. While the staff member knows that their employer is (potentially) recording the call, they don’t know that you are. And just as you have the option of asking to not have the call recorded, so should they.

The Australian Information Commissioner has a useful summary of the current law in this area.

Monitoring (listening in to), or recording of telephone conversations, is a matter tightly controlled by law. The federal Telecommunications (Interception and Access) Act 1979 and State and Territory listening devices laws may both apply to this activity. The general rule is that the call may not be recorded. There are exceptions to these rules in very limited circumstances including where a warrant applies. If a call is to be recorded or monitored, an organisation must tell you at the beginning of the conversation so that you have the chance either to end the call, or to ask to be transferred to another line where monitoring or recording does not take place (if this is available).

I’ll admit, the chances of you actually getting into trouble for doing this are slight — though if you end up putting the call on YouTube or SoundCloud, issues might arise. It might feel weird to have to immediately explain that you’re recording the call, and if you’ve been waiting on the line for a while, the risk of being transferred might weight on your mind too. But if you’re determined to record calls, do the right thing and ask first.


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