A federal judge in California this month gave preliminary approval to a $1.24 million settlement between home call center company Arise Virtual Solutions and a group of its customer services reps who were assigned to its clients AT&T and Apple. The workers had claimed in the suit that they were intentionally misclassified as independent contractors in order to avoid paying overtime, training, taxes and other expenses. The case was dismissed with prejudice, meaning the result is final, and without Arise admitting guilt in any of the allegations.
Of all the nearly 60 work-at-home call centers I have on this list of virtual call centers, Arise is the call center company that inspires the strongest opinions--both for and against its business model. And its not actually on that list because I don't consider it the same type of operation. Arise works differently than most work-at-home call centers, which may be one of the only things its detractors and defenders agree on.
Although I wouldn't call it a work at home scam, I just don't think it is a very good opportunity. But, not everyone would agree with me. I have had hundreds of comments on these pages of short reviews of Arise. The difference between independent contractors and employees comes up frequently in the comments, and that distinction was integral in the recent decision.
But a difference from other companies I like to point out is the similarly of its contractors and customers. Arise agents are, in a sense, Arise customers too. Agents must pay for training for each client, and even more important, they pay a monthly fee of nearly $40 for use of Arise's infrastructure, which should surely include technical support. And if, indeed, Arise's technical support has as many problems as the reviewers report, then its agents--i.e., its customers--are not getting what they paid for.
But the larger question, to me, is does it make sense to pay in the first place. Being an independent contractor does not mean that you must absorb all business costs.
I am independent contractor--not an employee of About.com. However, About does not charge me a fee to use its infrastructure, and it provides technical support and many other tools to help me be more productive. It makes good business sense for About to help me publish more articles, so About and I can both share in the revenue.
About's model of no fees to its contractors is far more typical than Arise's. Other than paying for a background check (and most companies do not charge for this), I do not recommend any call center company that charges its agents fees.