BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — Faced with a lawsuit over allegations of questionable sales tactics, Nicor Gas wants to use recorded customer service calls as part of its defense.
Attorney Adam Levitt, who represents the plaintiffs, called the move “outrageous.”
“The fact that Nicor is trying to use these recordings in a public judicial proceeding, which goes far beyond what any consumer thinks is going to happen with their information when they consent for recording, is outrageous,” Levitt told Illinois Watchdog.
Customers were never told their calls with Nicor would be held against them, Levitt said, noting the company used the standard line that calls would be recorded for customer service or training purposes.
Indiana University professor Fred Cate said that’s where customers should draw the line.
“At a minimum,” Cates said, “companies should have to be honest about their intentions.”
He said there’s a basic difference between customer service and company protection.
“There is a huge difference between we’re using this to help you and we’re using this to help us,” Cates said.
Annette Martinez, a spokesman for Nicor Gas, said the calls “will not be played for the public,” but added the calls may be used in the case.
“The judge will ultimately determine whether and how the recordings would be used if there is a trial,” Martinez said in an email.
Levitt is hoping the court raps Nicor on the knuckles for selling customers an insurance program that many of them never needed.
Cates, on the other hand, hopes the court gives all companies “a nudge” that forces them to respect people’s privacy and personal information.
“For 20 years I’ve argued let’s let the market take control, that there will be someone who offers a privacy-protected credit card or cellphone. But we’ve seen thousands of efforts that have died,” Cates said. “We don’t need heavy-handed government, just a tiny bit of a nudge from the court could do it.”
Contact Benjamin Yount at Ben@IllinoisWatchdog.org and find him on Twitter @BenYount.