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HP sets up call center in India

The contact center, which supports U.S. customers who use Hewlett-Packard consumer products, is another sign that overseas operations appeal to U.S. tech companies.

Hewlett-Packard has set up a contact center in India to support U.S. customers who use HP consumer products, in another sign that overseas operations are attractive to U.S. tech companies.

HP opened the call center in Bangalore sometime in the last couple of months, HP spokeswoman Monica Sarkar said Wednesday.

The operation has not meant a loss of jobs for U.S. workers, Sarkar said. She said HP had contracts with customer support companies in India before the decision to bring tasks "in-house."

"The work was already being done outside the U.S.," Sarkar said. She added that the move gives HP greater control over the quality of its support service. The support is for products such as cameras and PCs.

Sarkar said she did not know the number of employees at the center.

Not all of HP's support work for U.S. consumer electronics customers is done from abroad. HP supports English-speaking customers in the United States via about 4,000 employees from partner companies based in countries including the United States and Canada, Sarkar said.

HP is one of many technology companies that have moved a variety of high-skilled tasks to countries such as China and India, which offer technically skilled workers and lower wages. Information technology services company BearingPoint, for example, announced Wednesday the opening of a facility in Chennai, India, for tasks including software development and application management. The facility is slated to grow to 2,000 employees over the next two years.

Supporters of the so-called offshoring trend argue it helps relatively poor countries develop and keeps U.S. companies competitive. Technology leaders have warned that protectionist measures lead to lower economic growth and higher unemployment.

Critics say the process is driven by corporate greed, undermines the American middle class, and threatens the country's technological leadership.

A recent study commissioned by a union group found that 93 percent of IT workers are concerned about the impact of offshore outsourcing on their industry. More than two-thirds, or 69 percent, of the respondents said they supported legislation that would require customer support representatives to identify the city and country where they are located.

Democratic presidential candidate Sen. John Kerry has introduced legislation that would require employees of offshore call centers to identify their location.

The quality of tech support work done abroad has come under scrutiny. After receiving customer complaints, Dell stopped sending U.S. technical support calls for two of its corporate computer lines to a Bangalore call center.

Sarkar said she didn't think HP's recent move to open its own center in India was related to complaints.