How do pay-per-call phone numbers work?
Phone numbers that use a 900 area code – also known as pay-per-call numbers – provide customers with information, entertainment or some other service for a flat fee and/or per-minute rate. All fees and rates must be disclosed at the beginning of the call before any charges can be billed, and must be provided in all advertising.
Are all calls to 900 numbers considered pay-per-call services?
Yes, you can expect any call to a number with a 900 area code to be a pay-per-call service.
What are my rights as a consumer?
- Charges for calls to pay-per-call services should be listed in a section on your phone bill that is separate from your local and long-distance charges. For each of these calls to a pay-per-call service, the bill must list the date, time length and cost of the call, as well as the type of service.
- Your telephone service cannot be disconnected due to nonpayment of disputed pay-per-call charges. However, the phone company is allowed to block you from making any additional calls to 900 numbers until legitimate 900 call charges are paid.
- Most local telephone companies will block 900 phone numbers at your request. If you request this within 60 days of beginning a new phone service, the blocking service must be free of charge. If you make the request after those 60 days, the phone company may charge a reasonable one-time fee.
Can any calls to toll-free numbers result in pay-per-call fees?
Calls to 800 numbers - including 888, 877 and 866 - are toll-free. Although some toll-free numbers may connect you to a pay-per-call service, you cannot be charged for this type of connection without your full knowledge and consent. FCC rules state that you can only be charged after calling a toll-free number if you are informed at the beginning of the call that:
- There is a charge for the call, and what those charges are.
- Charges will be billed to a credit, debit, charge, prepaid or calling card, followed by a request for your payment card information.
- Charges will begin at the end of the introductory message.
- You can hang up during or at the end of the introductory message and will not be charged for the call.
With few exceptions, toll-free number information services that charge pay-per-call fees require a written agreement with customers that must include information about charges and rates, the information service providers name and contact information and a unique PIN number to prevent unauthorized charges.
No written agreement is required for:
- Calls to 800 numbers that charge for using devices to provide telecommunications services to persons with hearing or speech disabilities.
- Directory services provided by a telephone company, or for the purchase of goods or services that do not qualify as information services.
Filing a complaint
If you have a complaint regarding pay-per-call fees or toll-free service, you should first try to resolve it with the billing company. If you can't resolve it directly, you can file a complaint with the FCC. You have multiple options for filing a complaint:
- File a complaint online
- By phone: 1-888-CALL-FCC (1-888-225-5322); TTY: 1-888-TELL-FCC (1-888-835-5322); ASL: 1-844-432-2275
- By mail (please include your name, address, contact information and as much detail about your complaint as possible):
Federal Communications Commission
Consumer and Governmental Affairs Bureau
Consumer Inquiries and Complaints Division
445 12th Street, S.W.
Washington, DC 20554
Filing a Complaint with the FTC
Many information service providers are not telephone companies, and therefore not regulated by the FCC. If you have a complaint about an information service provider that you know is not a telephone company, you can file it with the FTC at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov.
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