Premium-rate telephone number
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Premium-rate telephone numbers are telephone numbers for telephone calls during which certain services are provided, and for which prices higher than normal are charged. Unlike a normal call, part of the call charge is paid to the service provider, thus enabling businesses to be funded via the calls. While the billing is different, calls are usually routed the same way they are for a toll-free telephone number, being anywhere despite the area code used. These telephone numbers are usually allocated from a national telephone numbering plan in such a way that they are easily distinguished from other numbers. Telephone companies typically offer blocking services to allow telephone customers to prevent access to these number ranges from their telephones. In some jurisdictions, telephone companies are required by law to offer such blocking.
Adult chat lines (phone sex) and tech support are a very common use of premium-rate numbers. Other services include directory enquiries, weather forecasts, competitions and voting (especially relating to television shows). Diplomatic services, such as the US embassy in London or the UK Embassy in Washington, have also charged premium rates for calls from the general public.
In many European countries, for example France, Germany and the United Kingdom, it is common for organisations to operate customer service lines on premium-rate numbers using prefixes that fall outside the scope of the country's premium-rate number regulations. Therefore, in contrast to North America where customer service numbers are typically free of charge to the caller, consumers in Europe often pay a premium above the cost of a normal telephone call.
Computer criminals have used premium-rate numbers to defraud unsuspecting Internet users. One scheme involved inducing users to download a program known as a dialer that surreptitiously dialed a premium-rate number, accumulating charges on the user's phone bill without their knowledge. Another now-uncommon premium-rate scam involves television programming that induces young children to dial the number, banking on the notion that they will be unaware of the charges that will be incurred. One variant, targeted at children too young to dial a number, enticed children to hold the phone up to the television set while the DTMF tones of the number were played. This type of scam was especially popular in the late '80s to early '90s in the United States before tougher regulations on the 900 number business forced many of these businesses to close.
- 1 North America
- 2 South America
- 3 Europe
- 3.1 Armenia
- 3.2 Austria
- 3.3 Belgium
- 3.4 Croatia
- 3.5 Czech Republic
- 3.6 Denmark
- 3.7 Finland
- 3.8 France
- 3.9 Germany
- 3.10 Greece
- 3.11 Hungary
- 3.12 Ireland
- 3.13 Italy
- 3.14 Latvia
- 3.15 Netherlands
- 3.16 Norway
- 3.17 Portugal
- 3.18 Poland
- 3.19 Romania
- 3.20 Russia
- 3.21 Slovenia
- 3.22 Spain
- 3.23 Sweden
- 3.24 Switzerland
- 3.25 Ukraine
- 3.26 United Kingdom
- 4 Asia
- 5 Oceania
- 6 Africa
- 7 Middle East
- 8 Using international-rate calls as premium-rate numbers
- 9 See also
- 10 References
United States and Canada
A 1-900 telephone number, in the North American Numbering Plan, has the form 1-900-###-####, and is often called a 900 number or a 1-900 number ("one-nine-hundred"). Area Code 900 went in to service January 1, 1971, but the first known to have been used in the United States for the "Ask President Carter" program in March 1977, for incoming calls to a nationwide talk radio broadcast featuring the newly elected President Jimmy Carter, hosted by anchorman Walter Cronkite. At that time, the intent for area code 900 was as a choke exchange—a code that blocked large numbers of simultaneous callers from jamming up the long distance network. Numbers with the 900 area code were those which were expected to have a huge number of potential callers, and the 900 area code was screened at the local level to allow only a certain number of the callers in each area to access the nationwide long distance network for reaching the destination number. Also, the early incarnation of 900 was not billed at premium-rate charges, but rather at regular long distance charges based on the time of day and day of week that the call was placed. The number used for the radio program was one that was specially arranged by AT&T Corporation, CBS Radio, and the White House, to be free to the calling party. However, by 1980, the 900 area code was completely restructured by AT&T to be the premium-rate special area code which it remains today. At that time, many evening news agencies conducted "pulse polls" for $.50 per call charges and displayed results on television. One early use was by "Saturday Night Live" producers for the sketch "Larry the Lobster", featuring Eddie Murphy. The comedy sketch drew nearly 500,000 calls, AT&T and the producers of SNL split the profits of nearly $250,000.
Earlier, 976 numbers used 976 as a local prefix (970 or 540 in some markets like New York state), though it was not assigned to a specific telephone exchange like other prefixes. These numbers were dialed as any other number, such as 976-1234.
A call to either one of these numbers can result in a high per-minute or per-call charge. For example, a "psychic hotline" type of 1-900 number may charge $2.99 for the first minute and 99 cents for each additional minute.
Initially, consumers had no choice regarding the accessibility to 900/976 numbers on their phones. However, in 1987, after a child had accumulated a bill of $17,000, the California Public Utilities Commission subsequently required phone companies to give customers an option to prevent the dialing of 900/976 numbers.
From the early 1980s through the early 1990s, it was common to see commercials promoting 1-900 numbers to children featuring such things as characters famous from Saturday morning cartoons to Santa Claus. Due to complaints from parent groups about kids not knowing the dangers and high cost of such calls, the FTC enacted new rules and such commercials ceased to air on television as of the mid-1990s.
Using 900 numbers for adult entertainment lines was a prevalent practice in the early years of the industry. This practice continues, along with the use of these numbers for things such as software technical support, banking access, and stock tips. Adult entertainment 900 numbers have been largely absent from AT&T and MCI since 1991. The industry still suffers from the stigma attached to the early days of the industry when adult entertainment lines were heavily advertised on late-night television commercials.
Some uses of 1-900 numbers include:
- video game and crossword puzzle tips
- dating and party lines
- voting (e.g., for TV shows)
- contests (e.g., the original version of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?)
- recent winning numbers (e.g., New Jersey Lottery)
- gambling tips
- phone sex
- Weather information (The Weather Channel)
- Professional wrestling hot-lines
- Secret confessions
- Celebrity Fan News (i.e., hot-lines for Hulk Hogan, Cory Haim, and various musicians and bands)
- Check verification
- Technical support
AT&T has confirmed that the Hulk Hogan Hotline was the most lucrative 900 line in the United States from 1991 through 1993. Other early leaders in amassing huge volumes of revenue were the New Kids on the Block and Dionne Warwick's Psychic Friends Network.
Consumers in the US have specific rights regarding 900 number calls, as laid down by the Federal Trade Commission, such as the right to a disclaimer at the beginning of the call and a subsequent 3 second hang-up grace period, the ability to contest billing errors, a prohibition on marketing to children, and a requirement that telecommunication companies must allow the consumer to block dialing to 900 numbers. US telephone companies are prohibited from disconnecting local service as a means to force payment for 1-900 calls. Various attempts have been made by vendors to circumvent these protections by using Caribbean or other international numbers outside Federal Communications Commission jurisdiction to bill US telephone subscribers; the former +1-809 countries were popular as their North American Numbering Plan format numbers look domestic but are not. The 101XXXX dial-around prefixes were also briefly the target of abuse by premium number providers posing as inter-exchange carriers, a practice which has now been stopped. A loophole which allowed US (but not Canadian) providers in toll-free area code 800 to bill for calls by claiming the subscriber agreed to the charges has also been largely closed by more stringent regulation.
SMS also has a feature for premium rate services. They generally do not use 900 numbers, but instead use five-digit and six-digit numbers, shorter than a telephone number.
Premium rate numbers in Mexico are served by Telmex and start with the dialling prefix 01-900, where 01 is the domestic long distance prefix and 900 is the premium-rate area code. These numbers are usually used for the same purposes as in the USA.
Telephone numbers of the form 0600-xxx-xxxx and 0609-xxx-xxxx are premium rate numbers. The 0609 series is for entertainment (fixed rate), while 0600 is for services (the rate depends on the particular number).
In Brazil, there is only one premium prefix: 0500, and this number is used by Brazilian Internal Revenue Service (Receita Federal) to file for the Annual Federal Income Tax exemption, or by organizations receiving donations (it's a premium rate per call and not per minute).
A long time ago 0900 was available, but now is no longer allowed. As there are no longer premium numbers, TV shows now use mobile numbers to receive calls and generate revenue to their program.
There is also the 0300 prefix, which is for companies which don't offer a 0800 number. This call is charged roughly as a long distance call, but without the benefits of super reduced rates outside the business hours.
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In Armenia, premium numbers start with 900, followed by six digits.
The 0900 prefix is used for premium rate numbers that charge per minute and the 0901 prefix is used for premium rate numbers that charge by call. For adult content the prefix is 0930 for per minute tariffs and 0931 for event based tariffs.
Premium rate numbers in Belgium have the area codes 090x.
- 0900, 0902, 0903, 0904 (per minute – from 0.25 to 2.00 EUR)
- 0906, 0907 (adult services – per minute – from 0.25 to 2.00 EUR)
- 0905, 0909 (per call – from 0.25 to 31.00 EUR)
Call limited to 10 mins.
The 060 prefix is used for premium rate numbers in Croatia for non-erotic and 064 prefix is used for erotic services.
Numbers starting with 900, 906, 909 and 976 are premium rate numbers. Other numbers beginning with "9" are allocated to certain organizations, such as 972 (Czech railways), 973 (Ministry of Defense), 974 (Ministry of Interior), 95x (other Ministries, government organizations, certain commercial subjects).
Premium rate numbers in Denmark have the area codes 9013, 9050 and 9055/9056. The 9013 is for helplines and chat services, the 9050 (paid per call) is for TV Call-in Shows and the 9055/9056 codes are for charitable organizations.
However, the regulation is very strict. TDC is the only carrier offering these numbers, with MCXess and kwak Telecom offering numbers internationally. The regulator can be found at http://www.itst.dk/, a shortened English regulation is available here: Short Denmark Regulation.
Numbers starting with 0100, 0200, 0202, 0209, 0300, 0600, 0700, 0750, 0751, 0752, 0753, 0757, 0759, 100, 106 and 107 are premium rate numbers. The 0700 series is for entertainment, while 0600 is for services. Several other premium codes exist, sometimes confusing consumers, who may not know if they are calling a premium number or not.
The Finnish Consumers’ Association has repeatedly denounced the use of premium rate numbers.
Numbers starting with 08xx (International : +338(...)) are special rate numbers. They range from toll free numbers (080x) to premium numbers (089x) (called Audiotel by France Telecom). There are also various moderately priced numbers (from about 0.03 to 0.15 €/minute) in the 081x and 082x ranges. Most of these numbers are not reachable from outside France.
There are also special 4 digits numbers in the form of 3xxx, for which billing rules can be the ones from any 08xx number, to the provider's choice.
The split rule between different premium rate numbers is not clearly defined (premium rate information numbers and premium rate entertainment numbers).
The regulator (ARCEP, previously ART) had issued a range for Telephony over xDSL in the 087x range, which might confuse consumers, as calls to these numbers are billed as local calls nationwide. Starting 20 December 2005, these have been changed to 09xx numbers, which are dedicated to VoIP. All 087x numbers have been converted to 09xx numbers by 15 December 2008.
Dedicated premium-rate lines nowadays begin with the prefix 0900, the infamous 0190 prefix having been terminated on December 31, 2005. However, some premium services also use lines with the prefix 0137, which is supposedly reserved for planned simultaneous call-in events, such as televoting.
Premium numbers in Greece start with 901 (general purpose) and 909 (adult-only services), followed by seven digits.
Premium rate numbers begin with the prefix 15. These numbers provide a range of services from weather forecasting to adult dating. Adult type services shall only be provided using the access codes 1598 or 1599, with adult services of a sexual nature being restricted to the latter. Adult authentication is required from your network operator to access these numbers.
All 15x numbers have officially quoted rates, set by the prefix, although telecom providers can charge an additional fee for carrying the call. 151x numbers are charged on a per-call basis, all others on a per-minute basis. In general the prices increase as the prefix number increases, within the call type range.
Comreg is a body which monitors the premium rate services industry in Ireland. Although an independent body, it can impose sanctions, ban advertisements and ban services offered by providers. It is funded by a levy on providers.
There are many premium rate numbers, including 144 (disabled by default), 166, 892, 899, using different fares. 0878 is also a premium-rate number, reserved for polls run via telephone.
Premium numbers are with prefix (+371) 90
Premium numbers in The Netherlands start with 0900 (general purpose), 0906 (erotic entertainment) and 0909 (games and lotteries) followed by four or seven digits. When one dials such a nulnegenhonderd nummer it is enforced by law that the caller gets informed about the per minute rate. The Opta is the governing body that regulates premium rate services in the Netherlands. Starting June 2014 any 0900 number used for customer service purposes is regulated at a maximum surcharge per call of €1 on top of the normal tariff for calling.
Any telephone number starting with 82 (mostly 820/829) is charged at premium rates (82x xx xxx).
- 607 - Pull opinion, 9 tarifs up to 3,28 Eur per minute (premium rates)
- 707 – Entertainment and some business (approximate cost of €0,25 / minute in 2009)
- 808 – Business and marketing (cost of a local land-line call)
Numbers starting with 70, 30 and 40 are reserved for premium-rate services. 700, 701, 707 and 300 are "general" premium-rate services (usually charged per minute), 707 and 400 are assigned for tele-voting, mass-calls and so on (usually charged per call). Other numbers (702-706, 709, 301-309, 401-409) are reserved for future assignments. There are some other numbers in "shared costs" or "dial-up services" ranges, which are charged at a quite high rates (comparable with lower cost premium rates): 8015, 8016, 207, 208.
Effective on December 1, 2008, 300 and 400 numbers are changed into 703 and 704 respectively, freeing up the whole 30x and 40x range for the future assignments (non-premium rate). This change will allow to accumulate all the premium rate services in the 700-709 range of numbers.
Premium numbers are in the 090xxxxxx-098xxxxxx range. Currently, only the 0900 block is used. . Prior to 2002, all numbers starting with 89 were premium rate numbers. Some of those number remain as local premium numbers, and the 02xx89xxxxx block remains reserved.
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809 is probably the only premium prefix. Note that usually in Russia one needs to dial 8 before the area code, so premium numbers are usually written as 8-809-xxx-xxxx
The 090 prefix is used for premium rate numbers in Slovenia.
In Spain, the charged-at-premium numbers begins with 80 or 90 (except the 800, 900 and 909, which are free, the 901 which is shared cost, the 902 which is like a provincial call and the 908 which is like a metropolitan call). The most popular prefixes are 803 (porn hot-lines) and 806 (services), also are used 807 and 905. Previously all the numbers starting with 90x (except 900, 901 and 902) were charged at premium rates but the 906 had been moved to 803, 806 and 807 and the 908 and 909 prefixes were created for Internet dialup services. All those numbers have 9 digits. In Spain both pay per minute and pay per call billing options are available across the 8 and 9 series range of numbers.
Also there are other range for information services (weather, white pages, etc...), there are all the numbers starting with 118, they can have 5 or 6 digits with a variable cost per number. 11818 is free from Telefónica's telephone cabins. Previously 11818 was 1003. The phone numbering system is Spain in confusing, because 8xx prefix is not reserved for free or cut-price calls and 9xx for premium calls.
Numbers starting with 0900, 0939 and 0944 are premium rate numbers. Also numbers beginning on 118 are premium rate numbers for companies that provide phonebook lookup services.
Numbers starting with 0900, 0901 and 0906 are premium rate numbers.
- 0900 – Business & Marketing
- 0901 – Entertainment
- 0906 – Erotic services
Dialers (computer programs) are banned from these lines.
See also Bundesamt für Kommunikation
Numbers starting with 0703 and 0900 are premium rate numbers.
In the United Kingdom, 09 numbers are issued to service providers through the regulatory body PhonepayPlus (originally known as ICSTIS, the Independent Committee for the Supervision of Standards of Telephone Information Services) to ensure certain community standards are adhered to both in terms of content and price.
Designated 09 Premium Rate Services (PRS) impose a service charge on the caller and this can range from £0.05/minute up to £1.53/minute. Drop charge rates are also available from £0.05/call up to £1.50/call. Charges are presented as part of the normal telephone bill with the provider's access charge added on top and there is currently no obligation to show the two charges separated out.
Earlier prefixes for premium rate services were 0898 and 0891 as well as 0331, 0660, 0897 and others. This made it difficult to remember which prefixes cost more than standard geographic numbers as they had similar-looking prefixes. The system was rationalised with new prefixes coming into use from 1997 and culminating in the Big Number Change in 2001, to move the remaining old prefixes into the new system. The designated PRS prefixes in the UK are now 090 and 091. PRS with "adult" content should use 098 for new services since 2005. Some older 0908 and 0909 numbers are still in use for "adult" services.
Other UK prefixes created since 1997, notably 0842, 0843, 0844, 0845, 0870, 0871, 0872 and 0873 are also charged at premium rates in that they cost more than a normal geographic phone call because they impose a revenue-share Service Charge on the caller. Users of 084 numbers often quote only the regulated BT call price: "084 calls cost 5 pence per minute from BT landlines, other providers and mobile operators may charge more". Costing only up to £0.05/minute (084) or £0.10/minute (087) from BT landlines, these numbers originally fell outside the regulatory scope of PhonepayPlus, even though other landline providers charge up to £0.20/minute and mobile operators charge up to £0.45/minute for calling the same number.
Due to public disquiet over the charges, particularly for 0870 and 0871/0872 numbers, some of the regulations and prices for these numbers were changed in 2009. 0871, 0872 and 0873 are now regulated by PhonepayPlus and revenue sharing is no longer permitted on 0870. Many organisations have consequently switched their customer service lines to 0844 and 0843 numbers in order to continue receiving revenue from callers, as these remain relatively unregulated prefixes. Currently, up to £0.05/minute for 084 numbers and up to £0.10/minute for 087 numbers from the call revenue is passed on to the telecoms supplier of the called-party. Part of that money is then often made available for revenue-sharing with the called party. Additionally, when calling 0870 numbers, many operators continue to charge higher than a normal call charge, especially from mobile phones.
Recognising a worsening situation for consumers, Ofcom has consulted on a variety of proposed changes since 2010 including the "unbundled tariff" and finally confirmed that users of 084, 087 and 09 numbers will have to declare the Service Charge and phone networks declare their Access Charge when the new system is implemented on 26 June 2015. This will make it clear where the money goes as well as making it easier to compare phone providers. The new system also clarifies that 084 and 087 numbers are never "local rate", a term that has not been applicable since 2004.
Under Ofcom's plans, the maximum Service Charge for 09 numbers will increase from £1.50/minute to £3.60/minute or £6/call and will be capped at £0.07/minute for 084 numbers and £0.13/minute for 087 numbers. Additionally, the Draft Bill on Consumer Rights, implementing the European Union's Consumer Rights Directive was announced in the May 2013 Queen's Speech and was passed into law in December 2013. After 13 June 2014 it will be illegal to use 084, 087 and 09 numbers for customer service, renewals, returns, faults and complaints; the advertised telephone number must be one that is "charged at no more than the basic rate". Many users of 084 and 087 numbers and some users of 09 numbers have swapped to 01, 02, 03 or 080 numbers in order to comply. Revenue share will return to 0870 numbers in June 2015, levied as a Service Charge and it is possible that some 0870 numbers will fall under PhonepayPlus regime.
While 084, 087 and 09 numbers are used for chargeable services, from June 2014 complaints about these services must be made to a "basic rate" telephone number beginning 01, 02 or 03. These are charged at standard geographic rates from landlines and mobiles.
In Japan, premium rate telephone number service is known as "DIAL Q2" and begin with the prefix 0990 followed by six digits. The digit following determines the service class. The prefix 0990-3 is for adult services. The prefixes 0990-5 and 0990-6 are used for other services. To prevent unintentional charges, subscribers may optionally register a four digit password which is then required when accessing a premium rate service.
Effective March 1, 2013, premium rate telephone services in Japan will be discontinued.
Premium rate numbers start with the prefix 060 followed by 7 or 8 digits. Some consumers do not know that numbers starting with 060 are premium rate numbers because 060 is mistaken for one of long-distance area codes in Korea (there are 062, 061 and 063). They call back when they find that they miss a call to their mobile phones from a 060 number ending up paying for just making a call.
1588-#### and 1577-#### are not premium rate numbers per se. They are used by banks, insurance companies, nationwide restaurant chains, consumer electronics companies, online shopping malls and others for customer service and delivery order. In many cases, customers calling them are charged at a long distance rate without knowing that they are making a long distance call.
Premium rate numbers start with 1900, they usually serves call-in customers but in some cases they will also receive premium rate SMS.
Premium rate numbers start with 0203, 0204 & 0209
In Australia, premium rate numbers generally begin with the prefix 19, with premium-rate voice services using the prefix 190x. Of these 1900 was the initial prefix and is the most common; since then 1901 and 1902 have also been allocated. The 1901 prefix is specifically reserved for "restricted services", where a user must register with the provider of the service on that number - these can include services of a sexual nature, although this is not the only definition of "restricted". The prefix 1906 is reserved for premium-rate paging services.
Other numbers beginning with 19 are generally used for premium rate short message service (SMS) services on mobile phones. These were originally trialled using the 188 prefix.
Previously (before the introduction of eight digit numbering), the prefix 0055 was used for this purpose, and as a result 190x numbers are occasionally referred to colloquially as 0055 numbers (pronounced double-oh, double-five).
The first digit of 1900 numbers is mainly 9; such numbers were converted from the 0055 prefix (for example, 0055 55 123 would become 1900 955 123.
In Egypt, premium rate numbers begin with the prefix 0900, and for mobile services it uses short numbers to call or to send SMS to(4 digits only).
In South Africa, premium rate SMS short codes are four or five digits long, starting with either '3' or '4'. Premium rate telephone services are regulated by The Independent Communications Authority of South Africa (ICASA)
Numbers starting with 1-900, 1-901, 1-919, 1-956 and 1-957 are premium rate numbers.
- 1-900 – Regular landline call rate + 50 Agorot (0.5 Shekel) (≈$0.14) per minute
- 1-901 – Regular landline call rate + 250 Agorot (2.5 Shekels) (≈$0.7) per call
- 1-919 – Erotic services
- 1-956 – Entertainment services: up to 40 Agorot more than a regular landline rate + destination service provider fee
- 1-957 – Information services: regular landline rate + destination service provider fee
The prefix 1-900 belongs to services with cost addition of 0.5 NIS for minute. Usually, used in radio stations and dates services. the next two digits tells the company: 2X for Bezeq, 50 for Pelephone, 52 for Cellcom (052-999XXXX in the origin), 54 for Partner (054-400XXXX in the origin) and 72 for Smile.
More optional premium call prefix:
- 012-409 or 018-XXX: Are used by Smile and Xphone. Cost 9.90 NIS for minute, usually for mysticism services.
- 013-44: Is used by Netvision. Costs 6 NIS for minute, usually for TV game.
The numbers starting with 700. They are mostly for competitions and winning prizes- adult entertainment ventures are considered immodest and thus illegal in Saudi Arabia.
Some four digit numbers are premium rate numbers. These numbers can only be reached with a mobile phone and are mainly used for contests and sweepstakes.
As an alternative to official premium-rate numbers, service operators have been known to use kickbacks from high-rate international call tariffs to charge for their services. In these cases, the calls may never leave the country of origin, even though the number has a country calling code (or an NANP area code) specifying a country with high incoming call rates.
A recent practice known as traffic pumping involves service operators partnering with small telephone companies who are allowed to charge high call termination fees for incoming long distance calls, per government regulations which mark the serving area of the small phone company as rural/high cost. Since most if not all long distance in the USA is a single rate regardless of terminating exchange for customers (but not for long distance companies, as each interconnection agreement is different), these services are "free" for the calling customers.
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