The Federal Trade Commission recently provided testimony on H.R. 1776 to the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection of the House Committee on Energy and Commerce. H.R. 1776, which is titled the “Call Center Consumer’s Right to Know Act,” would require employees at a call center who either initiate or receive telephone calls to disclose the physical location of call center employees. The bill also would require United States corporations or subsidiaries subject to the law to provide an annual certification to the FTC with respect to compliance.

    The FTC raised a number of concerns with the bill in its testimony. First, the FTC explained that the bill’s purpose is to provide persons with a way to know when they are dealing with an overseas call center, but that its broad language could be interpreted to apply to domestic callers. Thus, the FTC recommended that the bill’s language be tailored to more clearly define its scope.

    Second, the FTC pointed out that the ambiguity of the disclosure requirement’s applicability to Internet transactions should be addressed. Currently, the bill provides that the disclosure requirement applies to calls to or from a “call center,” which is defined as a location that provides customer-based service and sales assistance or technical assistance and expertise to individuals located in the United States via telephone, the Internet or other telecommunications and information technology.

    Third, the FTC expressed concern that the annual certification requirement applicable to U.S. corporations or subsidiaries could be a costly burden for any agency responsible for enforcing the bill and that the bill as drafted does not establish an enforcement mechanism for failure to comply with this requirement.

    Finally, the FTC indicated that under the Federal Trade Commission Act, the FTC has limited or no jurisdiction over certain entities that are large users of overseas call centers, such as depository institutions, airlines and insurance companies. The FTC recognized that it would have significant problems enforcing the bill against overseas call centers and would not be able to reach the exempt U.S. entities that engage those overseas call centers. Accordingly, the FTC recommended assigning enforcement of the bill to any agency without these challenges and that is more well-versed in labor and foreign trade issues.

    • Mike Tomkies and Charles Gall