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'India To Object To BPO Bill'

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Nasscom, India's national association of IT and BPO companies, on Wednesday expressed diappointment over what it sees as efforts to tap anti-outsourcing sentiment ahead of the US Presidential election next year.

While Nasscom President Som Mittal said the bill will have a negative impact on India. "The concern is not only about what the content of this bill is, but that US will come out with many more protectionist things," he said in an interview to Times Now.

Nasscom is also of the opinion that an objection to the passage of the bill will be raised not only by India but also by Latin America, Ireland, Philippines and Canada.  The new US Call Centre and Consumer Protection Bill tabled in the US House of Representatives plans to make companies that move call centres overseas ineligible for grants or guaranteed loans from the federal government for the next five years, a move aimed at stemming the tide of jobs heading to nations like India.

Introduced by Rep Tim Bishop and Rep David McKinley, the US Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act would also put some aggressive mandates on call-centre operations. 

"Outsourcing is one of the scourges of our economy and why we are struggling so to knock down the unemployment rate," said Bishop.

Under the protectionist legislation, not only would customer service representatives working overseas for US corporations have to disclose their locations upon request, they would also have to offer callers the option of being transferred to call centres back in America, the 'Huffington Post' reported.

Besides, the proposed legislation requires the Secretary of Labour to maintain a list of employers that locate call centres overseas. The companies also require to provide 120- day advance notification before moving a call centre overseas.

The call-centre bill has strong backing from the Communications Workers of America (CWA), a union which represents 150,000 call centre workers in the US. In a report, issued recently by the CWA, the union alleged that outsourced call centres,  including some based in India, pose a serious security threat as there are insufficient safeguards in place to deter fraud.

The report titled 'Why Shipping Call Center Jobs Overseas Hurts Us Back Home' cited several examples of security breaches involving outsourced call centres, including in India. 

The bill would also penalize US call centres with a penalty of $10,000 per day, for failing to report relocation to an offshore location, within 60 days to the US Department of Labour. 

According to this bill, call center operators who answer calls will need to identify their  location and the caller will have a choice of choosing a US based operator. 

Nasscom said on Wednesday,"We have seen attempts to present such bills in the past. However, the bill has only been introduced in the house, and there is a long way for this to become legislation. The possibility for the bill to become a law is very low. But it indicates the mindset of a certain set of policymakers and could set the tone for the next year, especially it being an election year."

It is indeed disappointing to see US adopting ‘protectionist' measures like these that restrict free trade and establish discriminatory trade practices. US lawmakers seem to have developed the practice of unfairly taxing companies working overseas, to pay for domestic issues. In case 
this bill is passed, not only will it see objection from India but Latin America, Ireland,  Philippines and Canada. Operating on a global sourcing model, builds efficiencies, benefits of  which gets passed to the common citizen. Laws such as these will increase the cost of service 
and will see a rejection from common citizens.

Talking to Hindu BusinessLine, BPO industry veteran and non-executive Vice-Chairman of Genpact,  Pramod Bhasin said he was not overtly worried as such Bills come up all the time and many are not passed. "I would not worry too much because with the US elections around the corner, there will be a lot of noise," he said. 

(With agencies)