Offshoring 'threatens data security'

2004

Better safeguards need to be put in place to protect the growing volume of personal and financial data on UK consumers held in offshore call centres, according to a group of British Euro MPs.

The Members of the European Parliament, backed by British union Amicus, are calling for better protection for consumer data sent overseas as a result of offshoring agreements.

MEPs are tabling a motion at the Employment and Social Affairs Committee calling for an investigation into the issue.

They also want regulation to prevent unauthorised access of personal details being processed abroad. The Data Protection Act requires company's maintain servers within the EU but allows that data to be processed anywhere.

Amicus, which campaigns vigorously against offshoring, has predicted that 200,000 jobs will be exported by 2008. It claims that this means every banking and personal finance customer will be forced to allow their details out of the UK.

David Fleming, Amicus National Secretary for Finance, said that offshoring is "an accident waiting to happen.

"It is only a matter of time before a serious crime is committed which ruin the reputation of the British financial services industry," he said.

Some UK financial services firms, notably Legal & General, Nationwide, Alliance & Leicester and Royal Bank of Scotland, have publicly stated that they will not offshore any of their UK-based operations to India.

The giant credit card provider Capital One recently scrapped a deal with Wipro when it emerged that call centre staff were offering customers excessive credit limits.

Last year, Australian-owned Myers Credit Cards also pulled out of its outsourcing contracts in India after a customer backlash over levels of service.

Research has found that workers in British call centres answer 25 per cent more calls per hour than employees in India and resolve 17 per cent more of these calls first time.

Although British companies which outsource work to India say they have systems and processes in place to prevent fraud, evidence has emerged that criminals have tried to bribe Indian call centre workers to get access to customer credit card details.

Earlier this year, the Evening Standard newspaper reported that organised gangs in India had offered the equivalent of a year's-worth of wages to call centre staff in return for details on UK credit card accounts.