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The Hidden Costs of Conferencing: Mobile Usage

In this series, we expose the hidden costs of conference calls and online meetings, to help you save money on this everyday business activity.  Although conferencing buyers have benefited from headline rate reductions over recent years, the cost to companies is still higher than it needs to be, owing to some common misconceptions and pitfalls.

This first post looks at issues around dialing in to conference calls from mobile phones. Read on to discover an explanation of this issue, and an easy fix to avoid this hidden cost.

The Mobile Usage Issue

To look at the mobile issue, we first need to take a step back and consider how participants typically join conference calls. ‘Dialing in’ remains the dominant method of joining conference calls, despite the availability of easier alternatives from some providers. Invitations generally include a range of international dial-in access numbers, from which guests try to choose the most cost-effective one to dial based on their location.

There are essentially two main types of dial-in number:
Toll-free or freephone numbers (e.g. UK 0800, US +1 877): the dialer generally pays nothing to make the call from a landline, although they may have to pay when making the call from a mobile (see below!)
Local access or toll numbers (e.g. UK 0207, US +1 312): the dialer pays as though they are dialing a regular domestic geographic number

When toll-free numbers are dialed from mobile phones in certain countries, the cost can be a lot higher than expected:
• In some countries, dialing a toll-free number from a mobile phone incurs charges outside of normal mobile packages, which appear on the mobile bill
• In some countries, an often hefty surcharge is levied when toll-free numbers are dialed from mobile phones, which then appears on the conferencing invoice

Does It Affect Me?

If you have conference call participants in Europe, then the chances are that yes, it does affect you.

From the UK:
Dialing a freephone number from a mobile phone using incurs a charge outside of your normal mobile phone contract. This is due to change on 26th June 2015, when dialing a freephone number from a mobile phone will become genuinely free, but until then, the rate can be surprisingly high: up to 40p/minute (!). Although this charge doesn’t show up on your conferencing invoice, it’s still a real cost to bear.

From Austria, Belgium, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, and Switzerland:
For the individual dialing the freephone number from their mobile, it’s genuinely free (i.e. it doesn’t add to their mobile phone bill). However, the conferencing company operating the freephone number gets an – often hefty – surcharge when toll-free numbers are dialed from mobile phones. This charge can be as high as 40 cents/minute. Unfortunately for businesses, the conferencing service provider generally passes these charges on to the customer.

The Easy Fix

Use local access dial-in numbers around Europe, NOT toll-free. Whichever country a participant is in, dialing a regular local access geographic number will count as a normal minute in their mobile package.

So, when you send out a conference call invite, unless there’s a particular need for toll-free access, we’d advise only including local access dial-in numbers for any European locations.

Stay tuned for part 2 of this series, when we will be exposing dial-out rip-offs.

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