Typically, you do not have to pay for calls to 800 and 888 numbers, but there are exceptions to this rule. You may be charged if you call an 800 or 888 number of a company providing audio entertainment or information services. However, these companies have to follow the Federal Trade Commission’s 900 Number Rule. Under this rule, a company must ask you to pay with a credit card or make billing arrangements with you before you are provided with the service. This rule aims to protect consumers by ensuring they are well-informed before they agree to any services.
A pre-subscription agreement is an agreement regarding billing made between you and the company. The company must obtain this agreement before charging you for an 800 or 888 call. The company must provide to you the company’s name, its address, business telephone number, rates, and rate changes. It must also use a security device to prevent unauthorized charges to your phone.
Some practices are prohibited by the 900 Number Rule:
- You cannot be charged for dialing an 800 or 888 number unless there is already a pre-subscription agreement
- You cannot be automatically connected to a 900 number service (which may call you back collect) by the company after dialing a toll-free number
- Some companies illegally charge for entertainment and information services over a toll-free number
- You may be asked to press a number to be charged automatically
- Some services may be advertised as “free” and then may charge you anyway
- You may be billed for calls to a different type of service (such as an international number)
- You may be charged a “monthly club fee"
There are certain things you can do to avoid such fraudulent practices:
- Check you bill for any 800, 888, or unfamiliar charges. These numbers should be properly identified.
- Be aware that not every number that begins with an “8” is toll-free. Some numbers may actually be international numbers.
- Remember that even if the phone company removes any fraudulent charges to your bill, the service provider may still try to collect from you through a collection agency.
- If you do not have a pre-subscription arrangement, dispute any charges on your bill for any 800 or 888 number.
- Remember that usually an 800 or 888 number is toll-free but not always. Make sure you have a valid pre-subscription agreement.
- You should make sure that any entertainment or information service provides security devices before you enter a pre-subscription agreement.
Contact your state Attorney General and/or the Federal Communications Commission’s National Call Center if you have a complaint.
A business lawyer would be able to discuss with you whether you have fallen victim to a toll-free telephone number scam. A lawyer would also be able to counsel you on any actions you wish to pursue against the service provider.