Understand Your Rights: Recording Phone Calls

PayPal reserves the right to record their calls with you for "quality control purposes." Why do they do this? Is this a special right given only to corporations? They do not only only screen calls for "quality" control purposes, but to gather more information that they can potentially use against you later. Recording telephone calls is not only a right enjoyed by PayPal or other corporations, it is a right enjoyed by YOU as well.

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If you live in the United States or any of her territories, you are governed by federal laws and state laws. Federal laws apply to the country as a whole -- usually triggered by something that occurs over state lines (a phone call for example or physically crossing from one state into the other for a particular purpose).

Federal laws are written by the Congress of the United States and are signed by the President of the United States to become legal and binding.

State laws are laws that apply within a certain state. You are bound by the laws of state in which you reside -- or the state that you are physically present in at any given moment for whatever purpose. State laws are written by that state's legislature or assembly and are signed into law by the governor of that state. When there are federal and state laws dealing with the same issue or rights, FEDERAL LAW TAKES PRECIDENCT OVER STATE LAW. For example, if federal law gives you the right to record phone calls, but your state law doesn't, federal law would apply in that case. You would have the right. An exception would be this: if your phone call was placed within that state to a person also within that state, you would be bound by state law. Recording your call would be illegal in this example! Another example of where state law would trump federal law under normal circumstances is if the state law gives broader rights than what the federal law gives on a particular issue.

In most jurisdictions, you have the right to record a phone call WITHOUT the other party's consent or knowledge. In NO jurisdiction are you allowed to record any phone calls of which you are not a party (you legally record the phone calls of your neighbors for example -- unless you are actually participating in the phone call). Before you record that call, KNOW YOUR RIGHTS!

United States Federal Recording Law

Federal law says that at least one party taking part in the call MUST consent to the recording. (18 U.S.C. Sec. 2511(2)(d))This means recording a call you are not involved in is illegal throughout the U.S. UNLESS you are a business and the call is occurring on a phone line or extension you are paying for.

Federal law applies when the phone call extends over state lines (example: a person in Maine calling a person or company in Florida).

Recording Law: Individual States

In the United States, all 50 states fall into ONE of two categories when it comes to an individual's right to record telephone calls. Those categories are: one party consent, and two party consent. One party consent is when only ONE of the persons who take part in a telephone call KNOW and give CONCENT to the recording of the call. Usually, this one party is the party actually initiating the call. Two party consent is when both parties must be aware the telephone call is being recording and consents to the recording of that call.

Twelve states currently require that BOTH or ALL parties consent to the recording. These states are:

All other states, including the District of Columbia, besides those listed above require only one party consent -- just like federal law. There are exceptions to these rules. If you wish to explore this topic in more detail, you are encouraged to do so. Click HERE for a great link to an informative site.


Canadian law requires that at least one party in the phone call be aware of the recording.

United Kingdom

The U.K. requires only one party notification when recording phone calls.


The nature of the Australian legal system (being a Federation of States) is similar to the US one. This involves complying with both Commonwealth and various State laws. In Australia there are certain legal restrictions on listening to and recording telephone calls according to interception and listening devices laws. These laws do not themselves set clear boundaries and as a result Australian businesses and individuals are often in a state of confusion about how far they may go when undertaking listening and recording.

However, it is generally accepted that individuals have the right to record their own telephone conversations without two party consent.


It is understood that the information presented to you here is not be interpreted as legal advice. If you are interested in seeking a legal opinion on an action you are contemplating, it is advisable to consult with an attorney in order to get a qualified legal opinion.

Statutes and laws change all of the time. The information given in this section was accurate at the time of publication. However, it is your responsibility to verify the current laws that might apply to you


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