Recorded on the Sly: When a Customer Call Becomes an Invasion of Privacy

01/13/2013 // San Francisco, CA, USA // Keller Grover LLP // Carey Been // (press release)

By now, it is a familiar scenario: A call to a customer support, order, or reservations line is made and a voice announces that the call may be recorded. The idea is simple: Alert the caller that if they continue the conversation, their words — and the potentially sensitive information they may divulge — won’t simply disappear into the ether. A thoughtful gesture? Sure. But in California, it is also the law, reports Bay Area consumer protection lawyer Carey Been.

Unfortunately, it is a law that isn’t always followed. The result is a worrisome loss of privacy for many consumers, with calls recorded without the required notice or permission. The good news is that the same California statute that mandates notice and consent for call recording also provides for penalties against those who stray from the law. It’s the legislature’s way of watching the back of California consumers, and helping to compensate them when their privacy is wrongfully placed in jeopardy.

The California law firm of Keller Grover — based in Los Angeles and San Francisco — has been on the forefront of ensuring that the goals and protections of the California law are put into action, and that those who have had their conversations improperly recorded see redress. The firm is currently handling a series of cases involving California’s Invasion of Privacy Act — which not only prohibits the recording of confidential telephone conversations without the consent of all parties to the communication, but provides for statutory damages in the amount of $5,000 per consumer, per unauthorized recording. Each of these cases is a class action lawsuit, in which a lead plaintiff represents a larger class of similarly situated plaintiffs, all of whom claim to have seen their privacy infringed by a defendant’s failure to conform with the California law.

Among the consumer protection cases Keller Grover is currently handling is a class action suit against the ticket reseller StubHub, Inc. Filed in January 2012 in the Superior Court of the State of California in San Francisco, plaintiff alleges in his complaint that recordings were made — without notice or permission — when consumers called StubHub’s telephone customer service number to inquire about, or seek help with, ticket purchases.

In a second case pursued by Keller Grover — this one filed in Orange County — plaintiffs allege in their complaint that Hyundai Motor America also violated California’s Invasion of Privacy Act by recording telephone conversations between consumers and Hyundai’s consumer affairs department without providing notice to consumers of such practice and without seeking, and obtaining, consent.

The cases are significant, Keller Grover consumer protection lawyers say, because they represent worrisome examples of companies disregarding privacy provisions put in place to protect consumers. Laws like the California Invasion of Privacy Act were enacted to give citizens a reasonable expectation that their privacy is being maintained — and that they have control over whether personal matters and information are to be recorded. By not following the law’s provisions, the defendants in these and similar cases aren’t just breaking the law, but breaking the trust that is so vital if consumers are to safely navigate the expanding modes of interaction and communications with the businesses they rely on.

In all of the cases Keller Grover is pursuing, the firm is asking the courts to award each plaintiff with the full amount of statutory damages: $5,000. This is the amount that the California legislature itself deemed warranted when it enacted the privacy law.

The cases, however, don’t end with the plaintiffs who are already part of each suit. Indeed, similarly affected consumers who feel that they were subject to the same surreptitious and secret recording while speaking with a customer support line or other type of call center, can also seek redress — and right a wrong that never should have happened. If you have information about these lawsuits or feel you may be entitled to damages in these cases, or from another company that may have recorded calls without consent, contact the class action lawyers of Keller Grover toll free at 415.659.9937 or fill out an information form at:

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Laws are about protection but they also about accountability. When improper behavior leads to consequences that never should have resulted — like the loss of one’s reasonably expected privacy — action can be taken. And as these telephone recording cases show, it is taken, for everyone who is impacted.

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