Federal Call Recording Laws
For many people in debt, the worst part of the situation isn't the actual money owed; rather, it's the constant phone calls from debt collectors. Debt collector harassment is a frequent issue for those who are behind in paying their bills, but the good news is that the government is on your side in this situation. In an attempt to protect consumer rights, the government created the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA), which is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Debt collector harassment and other abusive and unfair practices are not allowed under the FDCPA.
Under the FDCPA, debt collector harassment includes things like repeatedly calling at inconvenient times or places, threatening violence or harm, using obscene language and falsely claiming that the debtor has committed a crime. Some people who feel that their consumer rights are being violated resort to tape recording their phone conversations with bill collectors so that they have proof of the harassment.
There are both state and federal statutes that regulate the recording of phone calls. Federal law allows the taping of a phone conversation as long as at least one of the parties on the call gives consent. Many states do not require you to inform the other party that you are taping the phone call. The thirty-eight states in which this is legal are called “one-party consent states.” However, in California, Connecticut, Florida, Illinois, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Washington, the consent of all parties participating in the phone call is required in order for the taping to be legal. These states are known as “two-party consent states.” The state you live in isn't the only thing that you need to take into consideration. For example, if you live in a one-party consent state but the debt collector is calling from a two-party consent state, you need to play by the rules of the two-party consent state. Also, it’s important to know that it is usually illegal to tape a phone call to which you are not a party.
It's a good idea to be aware of the laws before tape recording a conversation with another party because the majority of states have criminal penalties for people who illegally record calls. Consult an experienced attorney who knows the ins and outs of call recording laws and can walk you through the process of taking a stand and regaining your consumer rights.
Last Modified: Thursday, May 9, 2013