When does a phone company have the right to delete a voice mail?
That is the question being asked by a grieving family member in Washington state. According to the news reports, a family is suing T-Mobile for just such a thing.
Faron Butler lost his 14-year-old daughter, Rhema, to cancer in June 2011. About a week before her death, she had left a voice mail message on his cell phone telling him she loved him and missed him.
In February 2012, Butler signed up for an upgraded messaging service, and in the migration, the message was deleted. He is now suing T-Mobile to force them to restore the message, in addition to other compensation.
I work in the telecommunications industry, and have no sympathy for the family.
Every voice mail system I have ever worked on has a “retention policy”, and will only keep messages for a certain length of time. Likewise, I know that the space and time required to keep backup copies of messages prohibits most systems from retaining an archive storage of those messages.
The likelihood of the message being retrieved is miniscule, yet the family wants to spend large sums of money to force T-Mobile to do the near-impossible (and of course expect T-Mobile to reimburse them for their expenses at the end).
If he wanted to keep the message, he should have recorded it to an audio tape or other storage medium he had under his control, not leaving it to chance in a system outside his control. I have assisted many users with such a transfer of messages over the years, and know that it can be done.
I am going to continue to follow this story over the coming weeks, since it could have far-reaching impact on “Retention Policies”, not just for Voice Mail but for other mediums as well.