The Fine Print: Should You Record Your Calls for Quality Assurance?

The following is not legal advice. Please contact the author (alex@bachuwalaw.com) or your own attorney should you have questions.Record Your Calls

We grumble when we hear the announcement, “Calls may be recorded for quality assurance.” “Just get me to the agent already!” is our natural response. Then something inevitably goes wrong and we hope and pray that the conversation with the agent was indeed on the record.

Curiously, inevitably, indubitably, when we need that call pulled, it, like exculpatory evidence in an action thriller where a hero is falsely accused, mysteriously disappears.

Enter in my experience‎ with British Airways.

The facts of this case are simple: I purchased two business class tickets to Nice from LAX with a return from Milan to LAX during British Airways’s Avios + AARP + Cash sale for $1600 + 60,000 Avios. Given the horrendous events in Nice and my previous experience visiting Sharm el-Sheikh after the Russian plane was bombed, I thought it best to ‎cancel my flight and go somewhere else. When I inquired about cancelling I was told that I would receive a full refund for the cash within seven business days and the points back instantly minus $55/pax if I cancelled online or $110/pax if I cancelled over the phone.

Heeding the advice of the agent and the hypnotic message from BA’s hold music, I decided to visit BA.com and move forward with the cancellation. Unlike some hotels and airlines which present ‎the warning: YOU WILL SURRENDER YOUR FIRST BORN CHILD SHOULD YOU CANCEL, British cryptically informs customers that the refund amount would be provided after (emphasis added) the cancellation is processed. Naively, and some may say foolishly, I clicked ‘cancel’.

After hitting refresh on BA’s website more times than I can recount‎ in anticipation of my points refund, I called the airline to explain what happened and they said that I would only be receiving a refund for the taxes. The representative said that this was a cash ticket so I was not entitled to a refund beyond that. To clarify what I thought would be a correctable situation, I provided the exact time I placed the call to the agent who incorrectly advised me and the‎ number I dialed. From there, I figured that they would pull the record and confirm that I was not making this up. ‎‎Instead, I was shuffled around from one disinterested agent to another. “This is a customer service issue, let me transfer you.” “This is a ticketing issue, let me transfer you.” ‎

Ultimately, I was told that they could not find the call so nothing could be done. This would be a total loss.

Outraged and justifiably enraged, I decided to file a suit in small claims court as there is no contractual opportunity to engage in consumer arbitration. Since my law firm is based in New York, I was within my rights to sue BA in Queens. Since two business class tickets cost at least $5000, I asked the court for this amount, the maximum that can be sought.

My Babu Bhatt legal argument is that I justifiably relied on another party and was injured as a result of this reliance. Legal theories notwithstanding, my argument was based on common sense reasoning; what kind of imbecile would give up points + cash + and a trip to South of France in exchange for nothing? What kind of company wouldn’t believe such a plausible explanation especially with audio proof?

The case is still pending though I anticipate that British will counter by arguing that this was a nonrefundable ticket and that I am responsible for understanding the terms and conditions. ‎Furthermore, I expect them to say, as one cheeky agent did, calls ‘may’ be recorded for quality assurance.

This same song and dance is not unique to British. The consumer implores the agent to follow the choreography of reason by processing the claim step by step. Instead, his reluctant dance partner departs from the grace of the waltz, insisting on the chaos of salsa. Dizzy from being spun in circles, the consumer finds no resolution as he is transferred from one help[less] desk to another. Notes, documentation, recordings in support of the consumer all disappear as the agent engages in a freestyle routine. “We have no rec, rec, record.”The charade of service ends with an ode to Billy Idol as the consumer finds himself talking solely to himself, either because the phone was abruptly disconnected or because he has been on the phone for so long that the department has closed.

Unfortunately, cases like mine are for too common. Corporations hide behind their terms and conditions instead of acknowledging the errors of their employees. It’s far easier to blame the consumer and take the next call in the queue than to show empathy. It’s far more convenient to pass the call on to another department than deal with the problem. It’s far more profitable to reply with an automated response to a consumer inquiry than to provide human and humane service.

I do not know what will happen with my British claim but I ‎do know that the next time I’m on the phone with a company whether it be Sprint, Comcast, Bank of America, and most certainly with British, I will began by saying, “My name is Alexander. This call will be recorded for my own assurances. How can you help me?”

Alexander is a New York attorney and BoardingArea blogger at thepointsoflife.com. He can be contacted at alex@bachuwalaw.com

About Alex Bachuwa

Alexander Bachuwa is a New York attorney who focuses on consumer protection. He is also a BoardingArea blogger. Contact Alex at through his website at bachuwalaw.com and visit thepointsoflife.com

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  1. One thing that I wish would be clarified by either a federal court or codified into law is that when one party informs the other party/parties on the call that it may be/will be recorded, the other side is allowed to record the call as well without requiring consent.

    Also, multiple companies have instructed their workers to either say they do not consent to the recordings or to hang up the phone when being told their call is being recorded by the customer.

        • I specialize in consumer arbitration so I won’t provide legal advice on whether it is indeed legal to record a call but I’m using this tool to keep companies honest. I’m not recording personal conversations etc. Let’s assume that I had recorded my BA conversation and they are in the UK and it turns out (even with my warning that I am recording it) that I was not supposed to, what do I care? They are the ones cheating me!

      • @Andrew – I get what you mean, but you know what they mean too. Your own notification has to be clear, to give the other party the choice to continue or decline.

  2. After an issue with Sam’s Club, I downloaded an add-on for Skype that now records all my calls. I live in Texas, which is a one-party consent state, so there is no need to announce that I am recording the call.

    Fortunately, I’ve yet to have to reference any of the recordings.

    • If the other party is in a state of two party consent, wouldn’t you be required to inform them that the call is being recorded?

  3. Add AT&T to the list of help[less] call centers, painful and excessive wait times and hypnotic pre-recorded babble in attempts to speak with a human who ‘might’ help. Calls at certain times are better, but generally the dance among the departments trying to find a person qualified or able to help is excruciating. They’ve just gotten way too big to cope with acceptable customer service. Yes, I hope they recorded the part when I said “I was gonna shoot myself out of sheer frustration” last week when attempting to get a cel phone unlocked (so I could move it over to T-Mobile!)

  4. About 18 months ago, I had an issue with A BA phone agent instructing me to ship bags overseas via FedEx to a relative after BA didn’t get them on her flight. The cost was almost as much as her airfare but I did as instructed. When I called back to get reimbursed I was told this wasn’t policy. After about a month of back and forth, they DID pull the phone call and verify my claim and reimbursed me for the shipping cost. They said all calls were recorded and they had a special division that pulls those records when needed. I had to provide the number I called, the number I called from and the time/date I placed the call.

    Maybe you could subpoena the recording. Good luck.

    • That’s something I will consider as I move forward with this process. I’m not sure since I’m not a litigation attorney if that’s allowed in small claims. My hunch is that it isn’t. If they really don’t want to make this right I may remove this case to district court where I will have all the legal tools at my disposal.

      • The individual at BA to request this information is Paul Byrne.

        88Paul.byrne@ba.com88

        The eights are used to help prevent spam. He is in the information security team.

        You can request all personal information or specific information from BA under a subject access request. BA have 40 days to reply with the info under UK law. Which i believe still is valid as the information is held in the UK.

        BA do not impose a charge. The maximum charge would be £10 if they did.

        • This would be under the Data Protection Act 1998.

          They will try to get you to fill out a form to request the information to stall the process, however a written request is valid in the eyes of the law.

          If you search google for “subject access request” also the ICO (information comissioners office) website has a helpful guide to rights of data stored in the UK/EU

    • I actually think this would be a pretty informative post if ever made.

      I’ve definitely had instances where having a call recorded would’ve saved me major headaches and time. One incident was with T-Mobile, whom I’ve been with for 12+ years. My phone didn’t have good reception and so after a lengthy effort to troubleshoot they told me to send in my phone for a replacement. I explicitly told them it has a red dot indicating water damage ( moisture from listening to pandora while taking a shower) and that I didn’t believe my phone was the reason for crappy reception so I needed them to verify that they’ll accept my phone as a replacement per their warranty terms. Long story short, they charged me $400, kept me on the phone at least 6+ more hours over the next month, and eventually back peddled after finding the call and rep did in fact explicity tell me not to worry about water damage. They apparently didn’t have a right to the call because she was no longer an employee (gee I wonder why) and it took some senior level executive of a major department to get authorization to review the phone log. So yes, I definitely think recording calls is a great idea. My story just shows you can’t even rely on calls recorded by them to be used for reference later on. And oh yes, the phone wasn’t the issue.. they had cell tower changes in the area and the left hand doesn’t know what the right was doing.

      As it is, you can count me in for wanting to know the outcome. This was a great piece and I’d love to read more stories like this.

      • I would also argue that having the call recorded so you reply with the verbatim conversation in making your case would add a powerful punch to your argument. It might take a bit to put it on paper but that’s better than being on hold and eventually they will have to respond to the written documentation.

      • Thank you for the comment. This is the second post in the series of consumer protection articles. More to come.

  5. Honestly my experience has been the opposite (not with BA in particular)

    I must be extremely lucky. I don’t record the calls I have with various companies, but I do almost always record the the time and date of the call as well as hopefully the agent/agents I speak with. It hasn’t always been quick and painless but the companies have always been able to pull the call — with most resolutions in my favor or some sort of reasonable somewhat fair resolution.

    I’m a bit surprised that BA has been unwilling to listen to the call when requested. In the poster’s shoes, I’d be outraged. I’m assuming the OP gave them the approximate date and time when the call was made.

    • I gave them the exact time and date and I called within 30 minutes of not seeing my avios post instantly!

  6. There was a case in FL a few weeks ago, when a murder suspect escaped from the court building. Police claimed they obtained transcripts of all private calls in the area within hours, and were able to capture the suspect 2 days later based on that information.

    Let’s assume those claims were accurate, as I see no reason to doubt them. Would a private citizen likewise be able to subpena a call recording pertinent to a court case from whomever is the current custodian of such “big data” (the phone company or NSA)?

    • As I wrote above, this isn’t my area of expertise but I will be happy to share what happens to me along the way.

  7. I worked for a bank in the challenge for the disputes department and had gotten the question whether or not we could use refordings as support for a dispute claim. Management states we could not use a recording because we have no way of substantiating the recording. Some banks may be different but that is my experience.

  8. The same way I screenshot any online chats of significance, I would record any calls that may be important. What’s the best way to record a call with iPhone?

  9. Nevada prohibits recording without both parties’ consent. There was an interesting case here where the call was made from California and NV applied California law

    Note:The stupidest person on the internet doesn’t get to tell everyone what the law is

    That may be intended to apply to me, or someone else posting here

    • Understanding the law is the responsibility of the person choosing to record the call. I’m not going to advise on the legality of doing so.

      In my case, I would assume if both parties need consent that my announcement would prompt the other party on the line to say, “no you can’t do that.” To which I would say take me to court!

      Let’s keep the hypothetical of this article in perspective. The companies are instructing consumers to do one thing and then pleading ignorance when the consumer follows the advice and gets duped. It would be pretty remarkable if the consumer is then prosecuted for trying to prove his point.

  10. TapeACall

    • Arizona: One party must consent
    • California: All parties must consent
    • Florida: All parties must consent
    • Georgia: One party must consent
    • Illinois: Unclear—so get two-party consent to be safe
    • Indiana: One party must consent
    • Massachusetts: Two-party consent; secretly recording calls is illegal
    • Michigan: All parties likely must consent—but courts are divided
    • Missouri: One party must consent
    • New Jersey: One party must consent
    • New York: One party must consent
    • North Carolina: One party must consent
    • Ohio: One party must consent
    • Pennsylvania: All parties must consent
    • Tennessee: One party must consent
    • Texas: One party must consent
    • Virginia: One party must consent
    • Washington: All parties must consent
    • Washington, D.C.: One party must consent

  11. For all that were curious if there would be a swift resolution for this issue, there will not be. My hearing is scheduled for April 2017! The wheels of justice turn slowly. Thus, I recommend arbitration when available.

  12. Here I am, thinking I found a respectable new travel blog to read, but lo and behold I get one paragraph in and it’s more TPOL terrorist fear mongering! When will it stop?!? WHEN WILL IT STOPPPPPPP?!?!

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