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Forcing firms to reveal information is also coercive to consumers

In response to a reader's question whether the call center employees should be required to disclose their physical location at the start of each phone call, Don Boudreaux points out the absurdity of forcing firms to reveal information:

When Joe from Atlanta calls the Dell help center, he might then be treated to the following greeting: "Hello. Thanks for calling Dell. Im Anokhi. Im answering your call in Bangalore, India. Im an atheist lesbian who always votes for the socialist party. I see nothing wrong with abortion, although Ive never had one myself. I also believe in euthanasia, although I oppose the death penalty. I also feel strongly that the U.S.-led war in Iraq is immoral. How can I help you today?"

This greeting sounds silly. This greeting is silly. But each piece of information offered is plausibly important to some small handful of Americans. Therefore, I see no reason to single out for enforced disclosure information on companies’ extent of off-shoring. Declaring truthfully that some customers might find this information useful is insufficient to justify such enforced declarations.

Those in the favor of such a disclosure argue that it is not coercive to the consumers.

The argument in favor of such a requirement is that its not coercive (at least not to consumers). It merely requires companies with off-shore operations to disclose this fact clearly to consumers. Consumers are then free to patronize or not the firms that have some of their operations in foreign lands. Many consumers, after all, do indeed care about whether or not the company theyre patronizing has off-shore operations.

However, it is indeed coercive to the consumers! First, some consumers may have to spend time listening to information that is useless  for them. Also, companies will have to spend resources on training and monitoring the employees to make sure that they give their location in each call. That will drive up the prices and prevent some consumers from enjoying the full-benefits of outsourcing.

If some customers really care about the location then they can ask that question on each call. If they are refused the answer or the answer is not what they wanted they can always shop somewhere else.
Link: Cafe Hayek.


Michael H.

I think if a person calls a call center and wonders "Is the person I am talking to from India" he or she should be able to ask that. And the call center worker should be able to say "Yes I am from India". And if the caller says "I would rather talk to an American," the call center employee should be able to say "Okay, find a mirror and talk to yourself," and then hang up.

Brad Spangler

This sort of thing is best left to the market to determine. If such a thing matters to enough customers, a business will eventually do things that way to gain a competitive advantage.

The funny (or sad) thing is that it is precisely that sort of ham-fisted government control in the US that has made off-shoring attractive to companies.

Old Whig

In 1900, jobs were being outsourced to the slums of New York, London and Paris. In 1930, jobs were being outsourced from the regions of those cities to regions just outside them. In the 1960s, jobs were moving, for instance, to the Southeastern US and in the '70s and '80s to the Southwestern US.

Was the cry of "Foul!" raised - to the extent it is now - then?


Your "customers will decide" is the best policy. The consumers will decide if the service is good or not, they do not care where it is. If outsourcing is not allowed, what we consumers will have is the assanine stupid automated answering system - which is the current system for many companies. I despite automated answering system.

Liberty Dog

More nonsense from the "protectionist" crowd. Take a look behind the scenes and this is undoubtedly an initiative being pushed by some union boss who thinks it should be illegal for American citizens to have the freedom of choice to purchase any good or service not manufactured or performed by an American.

Jatin Varma

Its absurd to have call operators disclose their location, who in their right mind really cares(and has the time) and those who say they do are certainly paranoid. Outsourcing and off-shoring are just part of the free-trade game and its understandable that ppl who end up losing their jobs which are outsourced or off-shored don't like the end result which is unemployment. Instead of wasting time over forcing firms to disclose locations of call centers, time is better served helping ppl effected by helping them upgrade their skills so as to cushion the blow of unemployment

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