Secret Business Recording Of Customer Cell Phone Calls Remains A Crime

Contact: Richard Holober / Brian Taylor

AB 925 (Low) Dies in Assembly Committee; Broad Coalition Defeated Bill

SACRAMENTO – Assembly Bill 925 (Low), a bill to allow businesses to secretly record cell phone calls with customers, was held in the Assembly Appropriations Committee May 28. Secret phone recording remains a crime under California law.

“This is a great win for consumer privacy, the result of broad coalition building, effective lobbying at the Capitol, and grassroots opposition,” said Richard Holober, Executive Director of Consumer Federation of California (CFC), a leading organizer against the bill. Two dozen groups opposed the bill, representing consumers, labor, privacy rights, seniors, students, civil liberties and immigrant rights.

As introduced by Assembly Member Evan Low (D-Campbell) earlier this year, AB 925 would have allowed businesses to record cell phone calls with consumers without notification. Opponents swiftly organized, however, and forced amendments reducing the scope of secret phone recording in the Assembly Committee on Public Safety on May 5.

The bill that emerged following a 5-2 vote would have required notification to customers 20 seconds into a cell phone conversation that the call may be recorded. The committee also imposed a procedural hurdle, directing that AB 925 be reviewed by the Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Yesterday the Appropriations Committee announced that it was holding the bill, effectively killing it. Today is the deadline for the Appropriations Committee to send bills to the Assembly Floor, and no meeting is scheduled.

Joining CFC in opposition to AB 925 were: ACLU of California; California Advocates for Nursing Home Reform; California Association of Retired Americans; California Competes; California Federation of Teachers; California Nurses Association; California Rural Legal Assistance Foundation; Communications Workers of America; Consumer Action; Consumer Attorneys of California; Consumers for Auto Reliability and Safety; Consumers Union; Consumer Watchdog; Elder Abuse Prevention Program, Institute on Aging; Elder Financial Protection Network; Electronic Frontier Foundation; Older Woman’s League; Privacy Rights Clearinghouse; Public Advocates;; The Utility Reform Network (TURN); United Food and Commercial Workers Western States Council; University of San Diego Center for Public Interest Law; and World Privacy Forum.

Read a joint letter explaining their opposition here [PDF]. CFC’s detailed analysis of AB 925, which cites a unanimous state Supreme Court ruling upholding California’s prohibition on secret business phone recording, examples of previous secret recordings, and polls that measure strong consumer concerns on the issue, is available here [PDF].

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Since 1960, the nonprofit Consumer Federation of California has been a powerful voice for consumer rights.