How to do call recording legally in the US

Peyton Duplechien • 25 Sep 2021 • 6 min read

When setting up any business that works with calls, you always want to make sure you’ve got your ends covered, tied in a knot, and secured, especially when it comes to legal matters.

It goes without saying that no one wants to encounter scary phone calls or letters that could compromise your business with legal troubles, or accidentally cause infractions when on a call, that could potentially result in fines or even jail time for your business, you, or your employees.

So, when protecting your business on the telecommunications side of the law, you need to be sure that both you and your customers are accountable. And call recording is just one easy way to do this!

However, if you are carrying out call recording, you need to make sure you do it properly. If not, you could wind up facing the legal repercussions that you were trying to avoid in the first place.

With that in mind, here is how to do call recording properly so you can avoid any potential legal trouble in the future.

What is call recording?

If you’ve never encountered this sort of activity before, you might be asking the question ‘What is call recording?’, and it’s exactly as it sounds – the literal recording of any calls that come your way.

As you can imagine, this can be a serious boon for your business, making it easy to verify what was said by either you or your employee on a call, and enabling you to protect yourself, your employees, and your business if a dispute on what was and wasn’t said arises.

However, as you may have already guessed, there are some potential roadblocks when it comes to legal call recording. After all, the person on the other line needs to have their own protections in place.

Is recording a phone call illegal in the US?

When it comes to whether or not recording a phone call is legal in the US, the answer is quite simple – yes, it is legal, provided you stay in line with the rules and regulations laid out in federal law.

As stated by JUSTIA, a legal web authority, “Federal law (18 U.S.C. § 2511) requires at least one-party consent, which means you can record a phone call or conversation so long as you are a party directly involved in the conversation.

If, on the other hand, you are not a party involved in the conversation, you can only record a conversation or phone call if one party consents and has full knowledge that the communication will be recorded.”

In other words, within federal law, at least one of the parties involved in a call needs to know they’re being recorded, and one of those being recorded actually needs to be taking part in the conversation.

How to keep call recording legal in your state

So, with Federal Law taken into account, you might think that the legality surrounding call recording is pretty straightforward, right?

Well, not quite.

In fact, when it comes to call recording, there are actually quite a few things you need to take into account on top of Federal Law to ensure you’re fully covered, all of which we’ve covered below:

1. Check your state requirements

While Federal Law is universal and must be followed no matter where you live in the US, you also need to take into account the laws relating to call recording that are specific to the state your business is operating in.

For example, in the state of California, consent must be obtained from ALL parties involved in a call, making the Federal Law look very relaxed. But this is certainly not true for other states.

Therefore, before proceeding with a call recording, it is essential that you check what the state laws are surrounding call recording in the location in which your business is registered and practicing.

For more information, we suggest visiting the full list of additional state law information compiled by JUSTIA.

2. Always ask for consent

Regardless of what Federal and State Laws actually specify, at the end of the day, if you want to have all your bases covered when it comes to call recording, then it’s always best to ask for consent from the opposite party in all recording cases.

We’ve all probably been on that call where, before you even talk to a live person, they say, “This call is being recorded for quality assurance…”, and by staying on the line, you give your consent to this.

This is fine in and of itself, but you might also want to ask if that is okay with the person on the other end, just so they understand clearly how exactly they have consented to any form of call recording.

Alongside this, when you’re having your employees recorded, it’s never a bad idea to add this statement of consent into their employee paperwork, ensuring that this is recorded for the future, should it be necessary.

3. Do not eavesdrop

As Federal Law makes very clear, if you are not directly involved in a conversation over the phone, and at least one party has not consented to your presence, it is illegal to record said phone conversation.

Simply put, there should be a very clear difference between recording a call to be used for quality assurance and eavesdropping on a private conversation without the consent of anyone involved.

If you’re doing the latter, then you’re breaking the law.

How to set up call recording

In order to set up call recording properly, you’ll first need to check whether or not your phone provider has the capacity to do so. If you’re using a digital phone service, for example, they may be able to set this up with the click of a button.

You can also check this yourself by heading to the call flow section of your provider’s portal or website and looking for a record inbound and outbound calls button. You may even find they have an inbuilt consent option, which is a great choice for interstate and international calls.

If you’re lucky, they may even offer a custom announcement function here as well. You’ll probably find that you can set up single-sided call recording as well if you only want to record your employee or yourself for call monitoring purposes.

All of this you should be able to confirm with your phone provider. However, if you’re a small business owner or entrepreneur, then you may need to seek alternative technologies to set you up properly for legal call recording – such as a call recording app.

Consider a call recording app

If all of this seems like it might be a tad complicated to set up, then one of the best things you can do to streamline the process is to sign up with a call recording app. There are plenty out there that are fully qualified to keep your business protected. Just make sure they have some or all of the following features:

  • Stable recording quality – you want to be sure that you don’t miss any information on a recorded call, otherwise there would be little reason to record it to begin with.
  • Desktop and mobile availability – you want to be sure that your calls can be recorded no matter where you and your staff are based.
  • Auto-recording – to make things easier, it’s always best to have recording software that automatically starts in time with the call.
  • Unlimited recording – you want to be sure that you can record any and all calls that come in, that way you won’t miss anything vital.
  • Phone integration – you want to make sure that any app you use works seamlessly with your chosen phone system, so be sure to check your system first to see if this feature is in place.
  • Call storage – finally, be sure to check how long you can store calls in your industry so important information can be copied or duplicated if necessary.

It’s also important to note that, after signing up, you should receive promptings to forward your calls through the service or app in order to record them automatically. If not, then you should reach out to your recording provider as soon as possible.

For more information on exactly how to forward your number, be sure to visit our resource library.

Outsource your calls with VoiceNation

Hopefully, you should now have a much better idea of the legalities and rules to follow when recording calls in the US. However, this is only relevant if you pick up the phone in the first place.

And if you find you’re missing more calls than you’d like, then it might be time to invest in a Live Answering Service – such as the one we offer here at VoiceNation. We employ an expert team of Virtual Receptionists to answer your calls for you, meaning you’ll never miss a customer call.

Get in touch today to learn more about our 24/7, 365-day-a-year service, as well as inquire about our free 7-day trial period. We also have plenty of other articles similar to this one, such as our pieces on the benefits of outsourcing receptionists and help with outbound call billing.