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DEVELOPMENT REPORT — October 13, 2003: Telemarketing - 2003-10-12

This is Robert Cohen with the Special English Development Report.

People who sell goods and services over the telephone are called telemarketers. India, the Philippines, China and South Africa are among countries where telemarketing is a growing industry. Others, such as Mauritius, want to enter the business.

This should not be difficult for countries with the technology and interest. Many international companies have started to move their call center jobs to nations where the wages are lower. People may have no idea if a call center worker is on the other side of the world.

Most call centers are used not only for telemarketing. Workers also help customers. They collect information for companies. And they handle claims and record keeping. In fact, India’s call center industry has been described as “the back office of the world.” About seventy companies there do telemarketing for American businesses.

Some experts estimate that more than two-hundred-fifty-thousand telemarketing jobs have already moved out of the United States. These and other jobs in the services industry are expected to continue to leave the country.

The Forrester Research group expects more than three-million jobs in the services industry to move within the next fifteen years. It says they will go to countries like India, Russia, China and the Philippines. As a result, the company says, the United States will lose more than one-hundred-thirty-thousand-million dollars in wages.

This amount could increase depending on how a legal battle over a national “do not call” list is settled. More than fifty-million Americans have signed on to a new government list to prevent phone calls from telemarketers. These calls often interfere with family time or dinner. President Bush supports the do-not-call list, which took effect this month. Telemarketers could face large fines for violations, though some kinds of calls are still permitted.

The industry says the list violates the right to free speech. In addition, lawmakers who represent areas with call centers worry about the loss of jobs. The fear is that more American call centers will close or move overseas if the list is enforced.

Last week, an appeals court ruled that the government may continue to enforce the do-not-call list for now at least. A final ruling could come from the United States Supreme Court.

This VOA Special English Development Report was written by Jill Moss. I’m Robert Cohen.