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I'm in a sketchy business establishment, having a dispute with the owner/representative.

Examples:

  1. I'm at the front desk of a cheap motel, complaining about a lack of hot water in my room. The front desk clerk tells me too bad, so sad--it is what it is.

  2. I'm in the lobby of a towing/impound company trying to pay the fee to recover my car. The clerk tells me I can't see my car until after signing a waiver acknowledging that there is no damage to the car.

  3. I'm at a swap meet, paid for a product, and then discovered that the product I paid for is out of stock. The owner refuses me a refund, pointing to a "NO REFUNDS" sign behind the counter.

In all these types of situations, I would like to be able to record the conversation for the ensuing credit card chargeback / small claims court case. But I cannot, because I'm in a two-party consent state and of course the business would refuse consent if I asked They have everything to hide and nothing to gain by allowing me to record.

But now imagine that behind the counter is one of those signs: "SMILE!--YOU ARE ON CAMERA". Of course the business posted the sign for their benefit, not mine. But since they have claimed to be recording (whether or not they actually are), am I now allowed to record also? I mean clandestinely--I start a voice recorder on my phone without their awareness while attempting to negotiate a solution with each business owner/represantative.

If there is a general answer for all two-party consent states, then great. If not, then maybe individual answers for various two-party consent states would be helpful. I am in California.

2 Answers 2

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since they have claimed to be recording (whether or not they actually are), am I now allowed to record also? I mean clandestinely

No.

By seeing their sign and not walking away you give your consent to their recording. Their consent to your recording does not magically materialize just because of that — you still have to explicitly seek it.

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    I suspect this answer is correct, but it would be much improved if it cited a law, court case, or other reliable source. Jun 20 at 14:21
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Yes, but …

Different rules apply to audio and video.

In general, when talking of consent, you are referring to requirements for audio recording. Video recording does not generally require consent unless there is a reasonable expectation of privacy.

So, for your example, the display of the sign means both parties have consented to video recording (which isn’t usually necessary anyway) but not to audio recording.

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  • Can you cite any source to the effect that "* the display of the sign means both parties have consented to video recording*" Are you saying that if the business displayed a sign announcing audio-only recording, the customer is free to record also? if so, is there a source for that? Jun 20 at 14:23

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