United States: Ninth Circuit Says Cellphone Calls Do Not Have To Be Confidential To Violate The California Invasion Of Privacy Act

The Ninth Circuit recently issued a divided and unpublished opinion in Young v. Hilton Worldwide Inc. et al, which plaintiffs may attempt to use in class action lawsuits against call centers for violations of the California Invasion of Privacy Act ("CIPA").  We previously reported that in Faulkner v. ADT Security Services Inc., the Ninth Circuit may have foreclosed class actions like the one presented in Young because of the court's holding that CIPA violations, at least in the call center context, require an individualized, fact-intensive inquiry regarding, among other things, the relationship between the parties and the particular circumstances of the call.  Arguably, such an inquiry would impose a substantial obstacle for any plaintiff seeking class certification for a CIPA claim.

In Young, however, the Ninth Circuit came to a different conclusion based on its understanding of the distinction between CIPA's Section 632 (at issue in Faulkner) and Section 632.7 (at issue in Young).  Section 632.7 states, in relevant part, that "[e]very person who, without . . . consent . . . intercepts or receives and intentionally records . . . a communication transmitted between two cellular radio telephones . . . shall be punished by a fine not exceeding . . . $2,500."  Missing from this statutory language is Section 632's limitation that the intercepted or received call be a "confidential communication."  Relying on this distinction, the Ninth Circuit held that, in order to state a viable claim pursuant to Section 632.7, a plaintiff need not allege that the recorded communications were intended to be confidential.  In other words, the viability of CIPA class actions may now turn on whether plaintiffs allege use of a cell phone, rather than a landline phone.  Though an unfortunate decision, there are several reasons to believe the import of Young will be relatively limited.

First and foremost, Young is a 2/1/4-paged, unpublished opinion, with a somewhat strange history.  The Ninth Circuit was tasked with reviewing a district court order that dismissed plaintiff's Section 632 and Section 632.7 claims but, for reasons unknown, the order only discussed and formally ruled upon plaintiff's Section 632 claim.  Consequently, the Ninth Circuit was reviewing a relatively limited record, and did not have the benefit of the district court's analysis (nor did it have the benefit of Hilton's analysis) with respect to the plaintiff's Section 632.7 claim.

Second, while Hilton raised several statutory construction arguments in its appellate briefing, the Ninth Circuit declined to address them because it determined that the arguments were waived by Hilton.  Accordingly, it is unclear whether or not such arguments would have traction in a future case.

Third, in a dissenting opinion in Young, Judge Motz, a Senior District Judge for the United States District Court for the District of Maryland (sitting by designation), raised several compelling arguments that, given a proper record, may succeed in future cases.  Specifically, the dissent argued:

  • The California Supreme Court case Flanagan v. Flanagan, upon which the majority heavily relied, determined the proper definition of the word "confidential" as it is used in Section 632.  Flanagan was not reviewing a Section 632.7 claim.
  • There is no principled reason why the "service-observing" exception (an exception that applies to businesses which record phone calls for the purposes of monitoring their employees) applicable to Section 632 should not also apply to Section 632.7.  A contrary reading would arguably destroy the exception because most customers use cell phones, and because employers cannot determine with any degree of efficiency or certainty whether a customer is calling from a cell phone or a landline phone.
  • CIPA's use of the terms "receive" and "intercept" may suggest that the statute was not meant to reach intended parties to a communication, but rather parties who received the communication by some means short of "intercepting" it.  A contrary reading arguably renders "intercept" superfluous because one who intercepts a call also receives the call.
  • Since CIPA is a criminal statute, the majority's view that recording a call is either criminal or innocent based on the conduct of the caller (i.e., whether or not he/she uses a cell phone) is fraught with problems, some of them potentially constitutional in nature.

It is possible we will be able to evaluate the impact of Young sooner, rather than later.  There have been numerous cases brought in federal district court, as well as in California state court, wherein plaintiffs have alleged virtually identical class action claims.  See, e.g., Simpson v. Vagabond Franchise System Inc., Case No. 2012-00126259-CV, Super. Ct. Sacramento; Simpson v. Vantage Hospitality Group, Inc., Case No. RG 12637277, Super. Ct. Alameda; Simpson v. Doubletree Management LLC, et al., Case No. C12-016033, Super. Ct. Contra Costa; McCabe v. Intercontinental Hotels Group Resources, Inc., Case No. RG12637671, Super. Ct. Alameda; Simpson v. Ramada Worldwide, Inc., Case No. CV174549, Super Ct. Santa Cruz; McMachon v. Embassy Suites Management, Case No. CGC-12-522496, Super. Ct. San Francisco; Roberts v. Wyndham International Inc., Case No. RG 12639819, Super. Ct. Alameda; Simpson v. Best Western International, Inc., Case No. 12-cv-04672-JCS, 2012 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 162181 (N.D. Cal. Nov. 13, 2012).  It is possible that the statutory arguments waived by Hilton, and discussed by Judge Motz in Young, will make their way up to the Ninth Circuit before long.

Hopefully the dissent in Young will prove to be the stronger position.  Suffice it to say for now that companies, regardless of the industry they are in, should make absolutely sure that that they immediately implement policies designed to obtain prior consent before recording calls from their customers.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on Mondaq.com.

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Register for Access and our Free Biweekly Alert for
This service is completely free. Access 250,000 archived articles from 100+ countries and get a personalised email twice a week covering developments (and yes, our lawyers like to think you’ve read our Disclaimer).
Email Address
Company Name
Confirm Password
Mondaq Topics -- Select your Interests
 Law Performance
 Law Practice
 Media & IT
 Real Estate
 Wealth Mgt
Asia Pacific
European Union
Latin America
Middle East
United States
Worldwide Updates
Registration (you must scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions

Mondaq.com (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of www.mondaq.com

To Use Mondaq.com you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions