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COURT UPDATE: California Supreme Court Says It Is Illegal To Tape Calls Without Mutual Consent

Photo credit: Faisal Rahman

Think you can get the upper hand by taping your ex’s calls without their knowing? Think the judge will gush over your secretly procured admissions? Nope. Not only is this conduct slimy, it is also illegal, as reaffirmed unanimously by the California Supreme Court in its January 20, 2021 ruling in Gruber v. Yelp (S265509).

The California Supreme Court rejected an appeal from Yelp that secretly recorded sales pitches to customers. This ruling firmly cements existing law that prohibits taping either side of a phone conversation without both parties’ consent.

The case originated when Plaintiff Eric Gruber discovered that Yelp recorded at least a dozen calls from sales representatives trying to sell him advertising. Gruber, a savvy attorney, sued the company, in part because he discussed confidential matters with the representatives.

Initially, Gruber lost his claim because Yelp argued that Gruber himself had not been recorded, just the sales representatives. However, the First District Court of Appeal ruled differently, stating state privacy laws “make no distinction between the speaker and the listener,” and that mutual consent was required before any conversations could be recorded.

Photo Credit: Terje Sollie

The clarification of the law is important because Yelp’s employees were recorded discussing information they had learned from Gruber. “The recordings revealed firsthand and in real time their understanding of or reaction to Gruber’s words,” effectively making his side of the discussion available on tape, Justice Teri Jackson said in the 3-0 ruling.

Yelp is contemplating an appeal to the United States Supreme Court, citing First Amendment grounds.

It is unfortunately very common for family law litigants to record their exes. Not only is this conduct illegal under civil law, it is also illegal under criminal law. If you believe that your ex is recording your phone calls, schedule a free consultation with The Law Offices of Jane Migachyov HERE to discuss possible courses of action.

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