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With whom am I speaking?



Published: Sat, April 9, 2005 @ 12:00 a.m.



In the last Congress, U.S. Rep. Ted Strickland, D-6th, introduced a piece of legislation that was before its time -- and it went nowhere.

The Call Center Consumer's Right to Know Act would have required all call center representatives to identify their physical location at the beginning of each call to or from the center.

A consumer could decide, based on that information, whether to continue the conversation.

The legislation should be reintroduced in the new Congress, and we don't see why it shouldn't get strong bipartisan support. President Bush has suggested that the answer to the trade deficit is for Americans to stop buying so much stuff from China. While we don't agree that the answer is a simple as that, we are happy to see that the president obviously believes that Americans should have the information they need to be informed consumers.

Just as they should be able to see a "Made in ..." label on a product or its box, they should know when they pick up their phones whether they are talking to a salesperson or customer service representative in Chicago or Guadalajara or Bangalore.

Close to home

The need and the rightness of this legislation can be seen close to home.

In January, US Airways announced that it was going to consolidate its call centers in Pittsburgh or Winston-Salem, N.C. The North Carolina location won, after local and state officials offered an incentive package worth $1.4 million.

It now appears Winston-Salem might not get all that it bargained for. US Airways Group Inc. has signed outsourcing contracts with Grupo Atento, based in Spain, and Precision Response Corp. to handle some of the North Carolina and Pittsburgh work.

The Charlotte Business Journal reports that Atento, which already had a contract to answer US Airways' lost baggage inquiries from El Salvador, will also field reservation calls from that country and Mexico. Florida-based Precision Response Corp. will take reservations calls from an office in the Philippines and will handle frequent flier calls from an office in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.

US Airways or any other company can claim a right to outsource work to foreign countries. But U.S. consumers have an equal right to know about it and to make consumer choices based on that knowledge.

A call-center right-to-know act would provide consumers with that information.




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