Welcome back to Legal Geek. This week, we take a look at wiretapping laws to determine whether Frogpants friends Veronica and Ryan did anything illegal in recording and posting the phone call of them trying to disconnect Comcast service last week.
Anybody who has dealt with canceling cable services knows what a pain companies like Comcast and Time Warner can be on the back end. However, you hopefully haven't experienced the 10+ minutes of agony that Veronica and Ryan did, and it's worth a listen.
(Insert clip of Comcast call)
Available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yYUvpYE99vg
One of the more typical responses to this viral call has been to ask whether the customer violates any wiretapping laws and the rights of the Comcast call center employee by recording and distributing such a call. It even came up on Current Geek briefly last week.
Wiretapping laws have protected telephone, personal, and electronic communications since the late 1960's, and these laws have become more vital over time as privacy rights erode away for the general public in many areas. Federal and state laws prohibit any unauthorized interception, recording, distribution, or use of a private conversation, although there are numerous limits and exceptions to this law.
One limit is consent of one or both of the parties to the recording. 38 states and Federal law allow wiretapping of any conversation when one of the parties consents, which would automatically protect Veronica and Ryan as participants on this call. However, California is one of the few states that requires consent of all parties to make wiretapping legal.
However, there may be implied consent of the Comcast employee here because his company informs customers that each call may be monitored or recorded for quality assurance purposes, which is done precisely to avoid federal wiretapping laws and FCC regulation violations.
However, the California law has another important limit in that it applies only to confidential communications, in other words, those conversations where an expectation of privacy is present. It would likely be impossible for Comcast or its employee to prove that they have any expectation of privacy on a business call from a consumer such as this. Their own recording of these same calls tend to prove otherwise.
Bottom Line: Veronica and Ryan are safe from federal and California wiretapping laws thanks to consent and/or the call not having an expectation of confidentiality or privacy. That's good news for our friends and hopefully also for Comcast, which will hopefully change company practices and policies after the fallout from one employee following questionable company orders.
Thanks for reading. Please provide feedback and legal-themed questions as segment suggestions to me on Twitter @BuckeyeFitzy or in the comments below.