900 Number Charges
You always have the right to dispute unauthorized charges that appear on your telephone bill. Be especially alert to charges for calls to 900 numbers, which may or may not be legitimate. These calls are NOT toll-free; on the contrary, sometimes the charges can be quite high.
The “900-Number Rule” adopted by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requires a company to disclose certain information, as well as to ask you either to pay for entertainment or other services with a credit card or to make billing arrangements before the service is provided. If you don’t use a credit card, the company must also give you a personal identification number (PIN) or other security device to prevent access to this number by someone else using your phone. If you dial an 800 or other toll-free number, the company may not automatically connect you to a 900-number service or call you back to collect.
If you cannot identify a 900 call on your monthly phone bill or suspect fraudulent 900 charges, you must follow the specific instructions on your bill telling you where to report this type of improper billing. It may be to your local or long-distance telephone company, the 900-number company, or an independent service that handles that company’s billing.
You are required to notify the company designated on your statement within 60 days from the date of the statement where the error first appeared. Your report must be acknowledged in writing within 40 days if the dispute has not been resolved, and the billing error must be corrected and you must be notified of this within two billing cycles (no longer than 90 days). If the matter will not be corrected, the company must explain its reasons. If you remain unsatisfied, please address any ongoing complaints to the FTC.
While the FTC rule does not cover pay-per-call programs accessed through local numbers with a 976 prefix, the Georgia Fair Business Practices Act (FBPA) [O.C.G.A. Section 10-1-393(b)(21)] prohibits advertising a 976 number that automatically imposes a per-call charge or cost to the consumer (other than regular long-distance charges), unless the ad contains the name, address and telephone number of the advertiser and displays that person’s phone number and the per-call charge in the same-size type as the advertised number. You should follow up on any questionable 976 charge on your bill in the same way as outlined above, by first contacting the company. You may also report a violation of the FBPA’s provisions to the Georgia Department of Law's Consumer Protection Unit.
Tips from the FTC for avoiding 900-number problems
Scams involving 900 numbers are constantly changing. To help protect yourself:
- Deal only with reputable companies. Some companies or organizations sponsor 900-number services for opinion surveys, information, entertainment or other services. Before you call a 900 number, be sure you understand the cost of the call and the nature of the information or service you'll receive.
- Think twice before calling a 900 number for a "free" gift. Television ads, postcards and telemarketers may urge you to call a 900 number to get a "free" prize. But you pay for the so-called free gift by making the 900-number call. The provider of the service usually makes money on a per-minute basis, so there's an incentive to keep you on the line.
- Don't confuse 900 numbers with 800 or 888 numbers. You pay for a 900-number call. The company pays for most 800, 888 or other toll-free number calls.
- Talk with your children. Make sure they understand they shouldn’t call 900 numbers without your permission. You can have the phone company block 900-number calls from your phone. The Federal Communications Commission requires local phone companies to make blocking available—where technically feasible—for a "reasonable" fee. However, any subscriber with a new number can request free blocking within 60 days after service begins.