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Recording Telephone Conversations

The following article provides information about recording telephone conversations and general information about the interception and divulgence of radio communications.

Recording Interstate or Foreign Telephone Conversations

The FCC protects the privacy of telephone conversations by requiring notification before a recording device is used to record interstate or foreign telephone conversations. These types of conversations may not be recorded unless the use of a recording device is:

  • preceded by verbal or written consent of all parties to the telephone conversation; or
  • preceded by verbal notification which is recorded at the beginning, and as part of the call, by the recording party; or
  • accompanied by an automatic tone warning device, sometimes called a beep tone, which automatically produces a distinct signal that is repeated at regular intervals during the course of the telephone conversation when the recording device is in use.

Also, no recording device may be used unless it can be physically connected to and disconnected from the telephone line or switched on and off.

The above FCC rule requirements apply to telephone common carriers. Similar requirements are imposed on consumers through the carriers' tariffs.

Complaints about Recording Interstate or Foreign Telephone Conversations

The FCC's role in assisting consumers who believe their telephone conversations were unlawfully recorded is generally limited to ensuring that telephone companies enforce their tariff provisions regarding recording of telephone conversations.

If you believe that someone recorded an interstate or foreign telephone conversation without complying with one of the procedures specified above, you should first contact your local telephone company for assistance. If you are unable to resolve your complaint yourself, you can send a written complaint letter to:

Federal Communications Commission
Common Carrier Bureau
Consumer Complaints
Mail Stop Code 1600A2
Washington, D.C. 20554

Your complaint letter should include the following information:

  • Your name, address, and a telephone number where you can be reached during the business day;
  • The telephone number involved with your complaint (your home, business or other telephone number where you placed or answered the recorded call);
  • A summary of your complaint, including:
    • the name, address and telephone number of the party who recorded the conversation;
    • the date and time of the recorded conversation;
    • the name of the telephone company you contacted in an effort to resolve your complaint yourself; and
    • the names and telephone numbers of the telephone company employees you spoke with, and the dates you spoke with them.

Recording Intrastate Conversations

Questions or complaints about recording intrastate conversations (calls placed within the same state) should be addressed to the state public utility commission for that state. You can contact your local or state consumer office to obtain the telephone number and address for your state public utility commission. This information also may be listed in the government section of your telephone directory.

Interception and Divulgence of Radio Communications

There are federal and state laws governing the interception or divulgence of radio communications, including the interception or divulgence of telephone-related radio communications such as cellular or cordless telephone conversations. These laws may make an activity unlawful and may subject the violator to severe criminal penalties.

You can obtain a copy of this Fact Sheet by calling one the following FCC telephone numbers:

  • National Call Center, toll-free at 1-888-CALL FCC (1-888-225-5322).
  • Office of Public Affairs, Public Service Division, at (202) 418-0200.
  • Consumer Hotline of the Enforcement Division, Common Carrier Bureau at (202) 632-7553.
  • Telecommunications Device for the Deaf (TTY) toll-free at 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322).
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