Foreign investors establishing companies providing call center services in Vietnam

Foreign investors establishing companies providing call center services in Vietnam

Amid the growing trend towards globalization, Call Center services, phone-based customer service to support and advise an enterprise’s customers with 24/24 time have become a potential service sector in Vietnam. Within the structure of Vietnamese enterprises, a Call Center is usually organized as an internal department (often called the customer service department). However, outsourcing call center services will help the enterprises establish a professional and large-scale system of customer care and save the cost of operating internal customer service teams and departments, thus improving the enterprise’s competitiveness. Considering the current trend towards learning foreign languages, the foreign investor is service suppliers with expertise in call center services. They have brought with them the international-standard skills and culture of customer care and have been gaining access to the Vietnamese market.

Business Line’ s conditions to establish foreign-invested companies providing Call Center services

Customer service (often called the call center service) is an unconditional business line prescribed by Vietnamese laws. However, to activities call center services, foreign-invested companies need to register the business line “Service activities relating to phone calls” with the VSIC code of 8220. Pertaining to the Decision 27/2018/QD-Ttg, the VSIC code of 8220 includes the following services:

  • Domestic calls, answering phone calls from customers through telephone operators, allocating phone calls automatically, transferring phone calls automatically, interactive answering systems or simple methods of receiving contracts, providing product information, receiving customers’ feedback;
  • International calls using simple methods to sell or advertise goods or services to potential customers, doing market research or collecting public opinions and other similar activities for customers.

On the other hand, in the WTO Schedule of Specific Commitments in Services (“the WTO Commitments”), telephone answering services (CPC code of 87903) include phone call forwarding services (except messaging services) and wake-up call services. Accordingly, Vietnam only commits itself to open its market regarding the CPC code of 87903 for Japanese investors as prescribed in the Vietnam – Japan Economic Partnership Agreement (VJEPA).  Vietnam does not commit itself to open its market in other services provided for in the VSIC code of 8220 but is not included in the CPC code of 87903 according to the VJEPA Treaty and the WTO Commitments.

With this line of reasoning, although provisions of the Decision 27/2018/QD-TTG and the WTO Commitments do not distinctly separate call center services within the VSIC code of 8220, we can divide activities of call centers into two groups of services as following:

Service 1: Answering the telephone, receiving customers’ information, and transferring phone calls. Vietnam commits itself to grant market access to Japanese investors as prescribed in the VJEPA Treaty regarding these services.

Service 2: Receiving and sending information, answering for marketing purposes, doing market research and caring for an enterprise’s customers. Regarding these services, Vietnam does not commit itself to grant market access to foreign investors, including Japanese investors as prescribed in the WTO Commitments and the VJEPA Treaty.

Therefore, if a Japanese foreign-invested enterprise/ foreign investor only registers to do service 1 (with the CPC code of 87903) – corresponding to plan 1, the competent Department of Planning and Investment will review for approval as prescribed by the laws.

In the remaining cases, when a foreign-invested enterprise/ foreign investor registers to do call center services, the competent Department of Planning and Investment will consult with other relevant Departments and agencies to review for approval.

However, according to the National Business Registration Portal, Vietnam currently permits certain foreign-invested companies (especially Japanese investors) to supply the service mentioned above 2, for example, AEON Delight, Pacific Cross Vietnam, SCJ TV Shopping… 

Other relevant conditions to the establishment of foreign-invested companies providing Call Center services

Firstly, foreign investors investing in establishing companies supplying Call Center services in Vietnam can be foreign individuals or companies. There are no limits on personal capacity in either case.

Secondly, with regards to investment capital and investment capital contribution, there are no minimum capital requirements (legal capital) when foreign investors register the establishment of companies supplying Call Center services. However, foreign investors should consider all the investment limit conditions in relevant industries, sectors and the specific financial plan to ensure the project’s feasibility, avoiding registering unreasonable investment capital, which would result in a time-consuming and expensive modification process. Moreover, the contribution of investment capital and charter capital needs to follow the registered schedule as expressed in the Investment Registration Certificate, the Enterprise’s Charter and effective Vietnamese laws.

Thirdly, the headquarter of an enterprise to be established is the location at which the enterprise’s communication, transactions, and operation are carried out. Foreign investors should choose lessors who have sufficient documents proving their ownership; or their rights to lease; their rights to sublease. They should try to stay away from disputed locations. The headquarter of an enterprise cannot be located in apartments. 

Fourthly, the legal representative of a foreign-invested enterprise is an individual performing the rights and obligations resulting from an enterprise’s transactions and is representing the enterprise as a party petitioning for the settlement of civil matters, litigator, defendant or person with related interests and/or obligations before an arbitration institution or a Court, as well as other rights and obligations as prescribed by laws. The enterprise should also ensure there is always at least one legal representative residing in Vietnam. Suppose the enterprise has only one legal representative. In that case, that person must reside in Vietnam and authorize in writing another Vietnamese resident to act as the legal representative when he/she leaves Vietnam. 

If you have any questions or require any additional information, please contact Apolat Legal – An International Law Firm in Viet Nam.

This article is for general information only and is not a substitute for legal advice.