The Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) has published an advisory for the public to exercise due caution and check thoroughly before joining online conferences through audio calls. The advisory comes on the back of numerous complaints regarding skyrocketing phone bills, which came as many dial-in numbers of online audio conferences are typically international numbers, or at times, premium ones. As a result, TRAI now advises the public to check for toll-free lines or be fully aware of the tariff, before joining calls.
The TRAI advisory reads, "Considering that a large number of members of public have been using online conferencing platforms due to continued lockdown to check spread of Covid-19, it is necessary to alert them to check applicable charges for dialing such numbers or helplines of such platforms or app providers." TRAI has further added that high charges could have been added in customer service centre calls that are hosted abroad, and as a result, may have led to application of ISD tariff.
TRAI hence advises everyone to "carefully check the terms and conditions before using dial-in service". While data services are largely free or inexpensive in India, complementary calling minutes do not include any international calling. Typically, ISD voice calls made over traditional spectrum and not data (VoIP calls) come with tariff that has been significantly reduced from before, but are still quite expensive. As a result, attending conferences on such tariff may have caused a massive impact on the usual bill amounts that people generally pay.
With the work from home schedule looking likely to continue for much longer and travelling would likely be restricted, online conferences are expected to remain pivotal to collaborative workspaces. With such a future at hand, most users would be advised to be sure to check calling tariff for any conference, and attempt to find free to call lines to join the same.