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.
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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.
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Therefore, in contrast to North America where customer service numbers are typically free of charge to the caller, consumers in Europe often used to pay a premium above the cost of a normal telephone call.
The EU Consumer Rights Directive 2011/EU/83 came into force on 13 June 2014. Implementation detail, and hence the level of success in achieving this aim, varies considerably from country to country.
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).
Telephone companies typically offer blocking services to allow telephone customers to prevent access to these number ranges from their telephones.