Friday, January 02, 2004

More problems with taping customer calls

Commissioner's Finding 215 - August 26, 2003 - Privacy Commissioner of Canada

The Privacy Commissioner's website contains a newly-released finding related to recording of customer calls. The organization in question - a bank - had been the subject of an earlier complaint and apparently had not learned much in the interim. At the conclusion of his finding, interim Commissioner Marleau made the following recommendations to the bank:

With regard to the complaint proper, the Commissioner made the following recommendations:

  1. The bank should alter its call recording system to the effect that (a) telephone agents will have control over the taping so that they may initiate it on indication of the customer's consent and end it at the customer's request and (b) recorded calls will be stored and catalogued in such a way that they may be easily and individually retrievable and, where circumstances warrant, eraseable.
  2. The bank should include, in the activation instructions accompanying any new credit card, clear notifications to the effect that (a) telephone conversations with activation centre agents will be tape-recorded and (b) an alternative automated activation system is available.
  3. If the bank intends to continue recording calls to its card activation centre from the point of telephone connection, it should ensure that its agents notify the caller immediately at the outset that the call is being recorded. Alternatively, the bank should consider not initiating the recording of any call until after the notification is given.
  4. The bank should also ensure that its agents notify objectors of alternatives to the taping of card activation calls - notably, the automated activation system. Ideally, the agent should begin by notifying the caller of card activation options and should commence the recording of the call only if the caller indicates a clear preference for proceeding through conversation with the agent.

The Commissioner expressed his disappointment at the evidence that, despite the findings and recommendations in a previous case, the bank was continuing as a matter of course to tape customer calls without informing callers of the fact at the outset, without specifying purposes in a clear and consistent manner, and without offering alternatives. He noted that the bank's initial explanation that this was merely a training issue - that it was simply a matter of employees not yet being familiar with new policy and procedures - was no longer acceptable a year after the fact. He therefore made the following additional recommendations:

  1. The bank should review, consolidate, and revise its policy and procedures regarding the tape-recording of customer calls in accordance with the findings and recommendations in this and the prior case.
  2. The bank should conduct a formal training program to ensure that all its telephone agents are knowledgeable and proficient in the consistent application of policy and procedures regarding the tape-recording of customer calls.

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