'Hi, My Name Is Mary, and I'm Speaking to You Today from Pune, India'

By Deb Perelman  |  Posted 2007-04-10

Though it flew largely under the radar, on March 29 Rep. Jason Altmire, D-Pa., introduced a bill that would require employees at a call center who either initiate or receive telephone calls to disclose their physical location.

Called the "Call Center Consumer's Right to Know Act," the bill hopes to draw consumer attention to the degree to which U.S. jobs, and especially those in customer call centers, have been shifted overseas. Theoretically, once customers are made more aware of call center outsourcing, often blamed for lost U.S. jobs, they'll be more likely to rail against it.

Or so Rep. Altmire hopes, though there is little evidence that the bill, if passed, will have its intended effects. Clothing has long been affixed with labels reading that they were made in Taiwan, Honduras or the like, and it has done little to shift most shoppers' allegiances to only "Made in the U.S.A." garments when there is a price differential. It is any news to Americans that offshoring is all about cost-savings?

Yet, in an April 4 press conference in Pittsburgh—southwest Pennsylvania employs nearly 20,000 workers in call centers—Rep. Altmire pointed out that AT&T and other companies that have brought their call center components back to the United States have done so because of consumer pressure.

"Transactions are based on trust," said Rep. Altmire. "As commerce is increasingly conducted over fiber-optic cables and lines, Americans have lost the comfort and security of knowing with whom they are dealing. This bill would take a small step in reassuring consumers that their private information—be it a Social Security number, bank account number or pin code—is not being divulged without their full knowledge to someone thousands of miles away where U.S. laws may not be applicable and where U.S. law enforcement officials may not have any jurisdiction."

This is neither the first nor second time a bill of this sort has been introduced. Similar bills were introduced by Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass., in 2003 and again in 2004 by Rep. Ted Strickland, D-Ohio, but both stagnated in Congress. H.R. 1776 is in the earliest stages right now and has not yet been scheduled for debate.

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