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Trai advises public to check rates before using online conferencing platforms


New Delhi: The telecom regulator on Monday asked public to exercise due caution while joining online conference platforms via audio calls by first checking applicable rates for dialling such numbers and their helplines.

The advice by the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (Trai) comes in the wake of instances where users experienced "bill shocks" after inadvertently dialling international numbers to get onto online conferencing.

The regulator said it is also aware of cases where the customer care centres of service providers are either premium numbers or international numbers.

"Obviously, the members of public who use such services inadvertently may have to pay higher rates applicable to premium numbers or international numbers which would imply application of ISD tariffs," the telecom sector watchdog said in a statement.

Considering that a large number of people have been using online conferencing platforms due to continued COVID-19 lockdown, it is important to alert them to check applicable charges for dialling such numbers/helplines of such platform or app providers, it said.

"It has been brought to the notice of Trai that few consumers have experienced bill shocks when they joined online conferencing platforms inadvertently dialling international telephone numbers," the regulator said.

Trai has advised users to carefully check the terms and conditions before using dial-in service provided by online conferencing platforms and be aware of cost applicable for contacting the customer care centre of such platforms in terms of tariff for voice calls and other charges.

Any inadvertent lapse in this regard may result in significant charges causing bill shocks, it warned.

"Thus, all the members of public are advised to exercise full caution and make themselves aware of the details of terms and conditions of using the online conferencing services particularly nature of numbers to which voice calls have to be made for joining the online conference and/or contacting customer support and details of tariff applicable for each of such services," Trai said.

Trai's advisory comes at a time when use of online conferencing platforms and collaboration tools has surged, as employees across many sectors work from home amid the ongoing lockdown and movement curbs to contain the spread of coronavirus.

In India, economic and business activities are now slowing restarting outside containment zones, and partial movement has resumed within states, in the third phase of lockdown.

The government has extended the nationwide lockdown till May 17, and issued guidelines permitting different sets of relaxations in green, red, and orange zones -- thus paving the way for a staggered exit while reopening the economy.

As on Monday, the death toll due to coronavirus pandemic stood at 2,206 while the cases have risen to 67,152 in the country.

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