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India and Philippines Declare War on Call Center Bill

Posted: 01/11/12 02:35 PM ET

Last month I wrote about a bill before Congress that would both help fight the offshoring of call-center jobs and protect consumers. Now the countries where we have been sending those jobs are organizing a lobbying campaign to fight the bill.

The Bill

There is a bipartisan bill before Congress, The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act, that would let the public know which companies are engaging in sending jobs out of the country, let customers ask to use an American call center instead, and ban federal grants or guaranteed loans to American companies that move call center jobs out of the U.S. In "Call-Center Bill Would Let Customers Ask to Talk to Americans," I wrote about some of the specifics and the reason the bill is needed,

Today many call-center jobs are being moved out of the country to India and the Philippines. This costs American jobs, and can be very frustrating to consumers who have to speak to people who they cannot understand because of language problems or cultural differences. The U.S. Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act gives consumers the right to ask where the person they are speaking with is based, and ask for an American-based representative instead. Among the things this bill would accomplish:
  • Require the Department of Labor to publicly list firms that move call center jobs overseas.
  • Make these firms ineligible for any direct or indirect federal loans or loan guarantees for five years.
  • Require 120 day advance notification of a proposed move off-shore.
  • Require call center employees to tell U.S. consumers where they are located, if asked.
  • Require that call centers transfer calls to a U.S. call center if asked.

Lobbying Campaign

India and the Philippines are organizing a lobbying campaign here -- yes, foreign countries lobby Congress to take our jobs -- to keep this bill from even being considered. An article in the Hindu explains,

India's ambassador to the United States Nirupama Rao said that India would work to protect its business interests in the context of a proposed U.S. legislation against outsourcing call centre works to countries, including India.

The Manila Bulletin gets specific,

President Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III was urged to create and send a strong contingent of Filipinos that would persuade lawmakers in the U.S. Congress to stop the passage of a bill that could kill the US$9-billion business processing outsourcing (BPO) in the country.

Eastern Samar Rep. Ben Evardone, chairman of the House Committee on Public Information, lamented that U.S. House Bill No. 3596 or the Call Center and Consumers Protection Bill will discourage American companies from outsourcing services in other countries like the Philippines.

"We have to act immediately by sending a strong lobby team in the U.S. I believe this will kill the BPO industry in the country," Evardone said.

In, "Anti-Outsourcing Bill Stirs Fears in India, Philippines" at The Huffington Post, Dave Jamieson quotes Rep. Tim Bishop's (D-N.Y.) reaction to this effort by India and the Philippines,

When asked about such reactions, Bishop said that the fears in India and the Philippines reinforce the argument for the legislation.

"Frankly, the fact that both the Indian government and the Filipino government are reacting like this says that our bill is very badly needed," he said. Most of the call center jobs lost in the U.S. are "sent primarily to India and the Philippines. So I hope [the bill] does have an impact."

... While discussing the call center legislation last month, Bishop said that "outsourcing is one of the scourges of our economy and one of the reasons we are struggling to knock down the unemployment rate and reduce the number of Americans who are out of work ... We can't prohibit it, but we can certainly discourage it."

Consumer Protection

This is not just an offshoring issue, it is also a consumer-protection issue. In "Who Protects Info You Give to Offshored Call Centers?," I wrote about a study showing that offshoring of call centers causes us to lose protections on our privacy and financial information,

Not JUST Jobs Lost -- Data Privacy Is Lost, Too

A new study by the Communication Workers of America backs up the need for that bill. The report is called, "Why Shipping Call Center Jobs Overseas Hurts Us Back Home." The study found that offshoring call-centers undoes protection of Americans' private information. Personal data can be available to people who could use it for criminal purposes. Also, once information is sent across borders governments do not need warrants to collect this info.

The full text of the bill is available here:

H.R.3596 -- To require a publicly available a list of all employers that relocate a call center overseas and to make such companies ineligible for Federal grants or guaranteed loans and to require disclosure of the physical location of business agents engaging in customer service communications.

This post originally appeared at Campaign for America's Future (CAF) at their Blog for OurFuture. I am a Fellow with CAF.

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