The latest in anti-offshoring legislation -- a bill that would penalize American companies that offshore call center work -- is unlikely to impact call center buyers or suppliers, say industry watchers.
Last week, U.S. Representative Tim Bishop (D-NY) unveiled The United States Call Center Worker and Consumer Protection Act of 2013, a measure that would require call center employees outside the U.S. to identify the country they are in and offer consumers to opportunity to be transferred to a facility in the U.S. The legislation would also compel the U.S. Department of Labor to maintain a publicly available list of companies that relocate a call center overseas, in order to make them ineligible for federal loans, grants or subsidies for three years.
The language is very similar to the anti-offshoring call center bill Bishop introduced in December, 2011, which ultimately garnered 138 co- sponsors but not a vote on the floor.
If passed, such legislation would have "limited impact on global buyers and suppliers," says Atul Vashistha, CEO of offshoring consultancy NeoAdvisory. "The only challenge I see is the need to disclose [the call center] location and provide the option to switch to a domestic agent. Such processes would create increased cost to the parties and create friction in the customer service process." But, says Vashistha, "I don't expect this legislation to get too much consideration."
Such a law could increase investment in U.S.-based call centers as well as the use of home-based agents which could help to alleviate the cost difference between offshore and domestic sourcing, says Adam Luciano, principal analyst covering call center outsourcing for HfS Research, who gives the legislation a "barely more than 1 percent" chance of becoming law.
Anti-Offshoring Measures Persist Despite Lack of Success
Indeed, hundreds of anti-offshoring measures have been introduced at the federal and state levels over the last 15 years, but few have passed. Anti-offshoring measures aimed specifically at call center work have been introduced in California, New York, Maryland, West Virginia, Florida, Arizona, and New Jersey. The Save New Jersey Call Center Jobs Act did pass both houses of the state legislature earlier this summer, but still requires N.J. Governor Chris Christie to sign it into law. In 2010, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) sponsored a bill that would have levied a 25-cent tax on every customer service call originating in the U.S. transferred to an agent offshore, among other punitive measures.
"There have been these types of rhetorical attacks on outsourcing since 1998," says Jeff Lande, president of the Lande Group, a government relations and strategic advisory firm. The introduction of anti-offshoring legislation tends to be tied to economic conditions, Lande added, and is likely to continue even if very few ever become law.
"To me it's clear that politicians sponsor such bills to be able to tell voters that they are trying to protect jobs at home," says Vashistha. "They are not trying to understand or consider the overall economic impact... I wish they would focus energy on job creation legislation."
"Representative Bishop wants to retain and create jobs in the U.S. The way he's trying to do it is mistaken though," says Lande. "Either way, as with his past call center bills, these measure are not expected to be discussed in hearings or be advanced."