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.

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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.

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.

Area Code 900 went into 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.

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.

A call to either one of these numbers can result in a high per-minute or per-call charge.