Should you have the right to a copy of your phone call with a company?

There’s a reason I advise customers to stay off the phone when they have a problem with a company: If someone says something to you on the line, how do you prove it?

You can’t — unless you record the conversation. And many states either don’t allow that or restrict it, or recording the back-and-forth is impractical for a customer.

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Meet Michael Trout, insurance reform activist. He’s got an idea: Why not pass a law that gives you the legal right to the phone conversation?

Phone calls are often taped by companies for “quality assurance purposes” and stored indefinitely. But if customers wants to review them, they can’t.

Trout, who is currently involved in a dispute with Progressive Casualty Insurance Company over a claim, explains,

When I made the phone call to purchase auto insurance from Progressive, the agent made very specific representations about an additional policy rider, thereby persuading me to purchase the rider that i otherwise would not have.

Now that I’m in a dispute with Progressive, they refuse to provide me with a copy of the phone conversation (which they have verified that they have in possession).

Trout’s response was to start a petition to guarantee consumers would have access to copies of recordings that corporations like Progressive make and store on their servers. You can sign the petition here.

Here’s what he wants:

Consumers have a right to copies of recorded conversations that companies and corporations make and keep of sales and service calls.

Companies and corporations routinely record conversations between themselves and consumers, and store these conversations on their servers for years and years.

As consumers, we hereby claim and demand the right to know when a company or corporation makes and keeps such recordings, and also the right to obtain copies upon request or demand.

If the purpose of the recording is to accurately document the details, representations, and understandings of these calls, then it is only fair that all parties have unfettered access to these records.

Trout has a point. Shouldn’t we have access to a recording of our own phone call?

The technology exists to send an .MP3 file of your conversation along with the follow-up email that you receive after a customer service call. Why not send it, in the interests of full transparency?

I believe playing the call back would have some benefits.

It would eliminate all of the he said/she said arguments that arise after a call. You would know exactly what the customer service representative said.

Also, I think playbacks would make callers aware of how they come across. You know that expression, “You should hear yourself”? Well, what if you could? It might make callers more conscious of how they come across, and perhaps, more polite.

But I can imagine what businesses might say, if they were forced to supply their customers with an .MP3 or transcript. It will cost too much. It’s our information.

A survey taken between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. this morning (130 responses) suggests such a law would be broadly supported by voters. About 94 percent said they would back the law; roughly 6 percent said they wouldn’t.