There are several reasons why a business may want to record its interactions / conversations with customers: improving customer service; ensuring that employees always treat customers in the best possible way; ensuring easy customer follow-up and resolution of disputes; demonstrating accountability to customers; and aiding reliable note-taking.
Several businesses may not, however, realise these benefits as they are unsure of the legality and legal parameters of recording conversations. To clear up grey areas and enable you to grow and improve your business using all tools available, we have set out the basics of recording conversations in South Africa.
Am I (or is my business) allowed to record conversations with customers?
While, in terms of the Regulation of Interception of Communications and Provision of Communication-Related Information Act 70 of 2002 (“RICA“), the general rule is that no person may record a conversation without consent, the Act does set out certain exceptions to this rule. The exceptions include (and you can therefore record a conversation) where:
- you are a party to the conversation (“single-party consent”);
- you have the prior written consent of at least one of the parties to the conversation; or
- the conversation relates to, or occurs in the course of, the carrying on of your business (“the business exception”).
It is important to note that the business exception is subject to further requirements in terms of RICA.
As a side note, certain businesses (specifically those in the financial services and intermediary industry) are legally required to record certain conversations with customers and to maintain such recordings for a statutory minimum period. This is however beyond the scope of this article.
Consent to record
As stated above, consent of at least one party to the communication is required when recording a conversation. This rule does not apply where the recorder is also a party to the conversation.
However, where a third party is recording the conversation, the third party must obtain informed consent from one of the parties to the conversation in order to legally record the conversation.
Guidelines for recording conversations
- When recording conversations under the business exception, it is required that you make all reasonable efforts, in advance, to inform all parties that you will be recording conversations. It is good business practice to ensure and be certain that all customers are aware when conversations are recorded.
- Use reliable technology to record and store recordings of conversations – you want to make sure that your customers’ (and your business’s) information is protected! In this regard, ensure that any recordings and storage thereof comply with all relevant laws (including, for example, the Protection of Personal Information Act 4 of 2013)
- Maintain an effective storage system so that you can make the most use of your recorded conversations in developing your business
The article serves only as a basic introduction to the topic of recording conversations and legal advice should be sought in relation to specific circumstances.