The U.S. Court of Appeals, for the Second Circuit, ruled in favor of the alarm industry the case of Arias et al v. Mutual Central Alarm Service, Inc. et al. (“Arias”).
This case involved allegations by Arias that the alarm industry and Mutual Central’s practice of recording all incoming and outgoing calls from central stations violated federal law.
AICC (Alarm Industry Communications Committee, a committee of CSAA) and others sought and were granted permission to file a “friend of the court” brief. Previously, we had also filed a similar brief, in federal district court, where the alarm industry’s position prevailed.
The Court’s decision that Mutual Central did not violate federal law by its blanket recording of all telephone conversations from, or to, its central station, is a significant event for the industry.
The precise issue addressed by the Court involved whether employees are required to give their consent prior to the recording of all conversations (which may include personal conversations), in order for such recording to fall within the “ordinary course of business” statutory exception. This exception allows ‘interceptions’ of conversations, which would otherwise be unlawful, if they are made in the “ordinary course of business”.
The Court went to some length in examining and articulating the many reasons that underlie the industry’s recording of calls in central stations and why such recordings here were in the ordinary course of business.
Also of central significance, the Court held that no separate employee consent was necessary for the recording of all calls. The Court further noted that such recording practice is recommended by industry trade associations (a fact pointed out in CSAA/NBFAA’s brief).
While this decision is good news for the industry, this area of law is undeveloped as to the alarm industry in the other federal circuits, and indeed, there are some differences among the circuits as to when and if employee consent is necessary to record employee calls.
Any company having questions about its own practices, or the controlling law in its area, should consult counsel. q