U.S Code last checked for updates: Jun 21, 2024
§ 228.
Regulation of carrier offering of pay-per-call services
(a)
Purpose
It is the purpose of this section—
(1)
to put into effect a system of national regulation and review that will oversee interstate pay-per-call services; and
(2)
to recognize the Commission’s authority to prescribe regulations and enforcement procedures and conduct oversight to afford reasonable protection to consumers of pay-per-call services and to assure that violations of Federal law do not occur.
(b)
General authority for regulations
The Commission by regulation shall, within 270 days after October 28, 1992, establish a system for oversight and regulation of pay-per-call services in order to provide for the protection of consumers in accordance with this chapter and other applicable Federal statutes and regulations. The Commission’s final rules shall—
(1)
include measures that provide a consumer of pay-per-call services with adequate and clear descriptions of the rights of the caller;
(2)
define the obligations of common carriers with respect to the provision of pay-per-call services;
(3)
include requirements on such carriers to protect against abusive practices by providers of pay-per-call services;
(4)
identify procedures by which common carriers and providers of pay-per-call services may take affirmative steps to protect against nonpayment of legitimate charges; and
(5)
require that any service described in subparagraphs (A) and (B) of subsection (i)(1) be offered only through the use of certain telephone number prefixes and area codes.
(c)
Common carrier obligations
Within 270 days after October 28, 1992, the Commission shall, by regulation, establish the following requirements for common carriers:
(1)
Contractual obligations to comply
(2)
Information availability
A common carrier that by tariff or contract assigns a telephone number with a prefix or area code designated by the Commission in accordance with subsection (b)(5) to a provider of a pay-per-call service shall make readily available on request to Federal and State agencies and other interested persons—
(A)
a list of the telephone numbers for each of the pay-per-call services it carries;
(B)
a short description of each such service;
(C)
a statement of the total cost or the cost per minute and any other fees for each such service;
(D)
a statement of the pay-per-call service’s name, business address, and business telephone; and
(E)
such other information as the Commission considers necessary for the enforcement of this section and other applicable Federal statutes and regulations.
(3)
Compliance procedures
(4)
Subscriber disconnection prohibited
(5)
Blocking and presubscription
A common carrier that provides local exchange service shall—
(A)
offer telephone subscribers (where technically feasible) the option of blocking access from their telephone number to all, or to certain specific, prefixes or area codes used by pay-per-call services, which option—
(i)
shall be offered at no charge (I) to all subscribers for a period of 60 days after the issuance of the regulations under subsection (b), and (II) to any subscriber who subscribes to a new telephone number until 60 days after the time the new telephone number is effective; and
(ii)
shall otherwise be offered at a reasonable fee; and
(B)
offer telephone subscribers (where the Commission determines it is technically and economically feasible), in combination with the blocking option described under subparagraph (A), the option of presubscribing to or blocking only specific pay-per-call services for a reasonable one-time charge.
The regulations prescribed under subparagraph (A)(i) of this paragraph may permit the costs of such blocking to be recovered by contract or tariff, but such costs may not be recovered from local or long-distance ratepayers. Nothing in this subsection precludes a common carrier from filing its rates and regulations regarding blocking and presubscription in its interstate tariffs.
(6)
Verification of charitable status
(7)
Billing for 800 calls
A common carrier shall prohibit by tariff or contract the use of any 800 telephone number, or other telephone number advertised or widely understood to be toll free, in a manner that would result in—
(A)
the calling party being assessed, by virtue of completing the call, a charge for the call;
(B)
the calling party being connected to a pay-per-call service;
(C)
the calling party being charged for information conveyed during the call unless—
(i)
the calling party has a written agreement (including an agreement transmitted through electronic medium) that meets the requirements of paragraph (8); or
(ii)
the calling party is charged for the information in accordance with paragraph (9);
(D)
the calling party being called back collect for the provision of audio information services or simultaneous voice conversation services; or
(E)
the calling party being assessed, by virtue of being asked to connect or otherwise transfer to a pay-per-call service, a charge for the call.
(8)
Subscription agreements for billing for information provided via toll-free calls
(A)
In general
For purposes of paragraph (7)(C)(i), a written subscription does not meet the requirements of this paragraph unless the agreement specifies the material terms and conditions under which the information is offered and includes—
(i)
the rate at which charges are assessed for the information;
(ii)
the information provider’s name;
(iii)
the information provider’s business address;
(iv)
the information provider’s regular business telephone number;
(v)
the information provider’s agreement to notify the subscriber at least one billing cycle in advance of all future changes in the rates charged for the information; and
(vi)
the subscriber’s choice of payment method, which may be by direct remit, debit, prepaid account, phone bill, or credit or calling card.
(B)
Billing arrangements
If a subscriber elects, pursuant to subparagraph (A)(vi), to pay by means of a phone bill—
(i)
the agreement shall clearly explain that the subscriber will be assessed for calls made to the information service from the subscriber’s phone line;
(ii)
the phone bill shall include, in prominent type, the following disclaimer:

“Common carriers may not disconnect local or long distance telephone service for failure to pay disputed charges for information services.”; and

(iii)
the phone bill shall clearly list the 800 number dialed.
(C)
Use of PINs to prevent unauthorized use
A written agreement does not meet the requirements of this paragraph unless it—
(i)
includes a unique personal identification number or other subscriber-specific identifier and requires a subscriber to use this number or identifier to obtain access to the information provided and includes instructions on its use; and
(ii)
assures that any charges for services accessed by use of the subscriber’s personal identification number or subscriber-specific identifier be assessed to subscriber’s source of payment elected pursuant to subparagraph (A)(vi).
(D)
Exceptions
Notwithstanding paragraph (7)(C), a written agreement that meets the requirements of this paragraph is not required—
(i)
for calls utilizing telecommunications devices for the deaf;
(ii)
for directory services provided by a common carrier or its affiliate or by a local exchange carrier or its affiliate; or
(iii)
for any purchase of goods or of services that are not information services.
(E)
Termination of service
On receipt by a common carrier of a complaint by any person that an information provider is in violation of the provisions of this section, a carrier shall—
(i)
promptly investigate the complaint; and
(ii)
if the carrier reasonably determines that the complaint is valid, it may terminate the provision of service to an information provider unless the provider supplies evidence of a written agreement that meets the requirements of this section.
(F)
Treatment of remedies
(9)
Charges by credit, prepaid, debit, charge, or calling card in absence of agreement
For purposes of paragraph (7)(C)(ii), a calling party is not charged in accordance with this paragraph unless the calling party is charged by means of a credit, prepaid, debit, charge, or calling card and the information service provider includes in response to each call an introductory disclosure message that—
(A)
clearly states that there is a charge for the call;
(B)
clearly states the service’s total cost per minute and any other fees for the service or for any service to which the caller may be transferred;
(C)
explains that the charges must be billed on either a credit, prepaid, debit, charge, or calling card;
(D)
asks the caller for the card number;
(E)
clearly states that charges for the call begin at the end of the introductory message; and
(F)
clearly states that the caller can hang up at or before the end of the introductory message without incurring any charge whatsoever.
(10)
Bypass of introductory disclosure message
(11)
“Calling card” defined
(d)
Billing and collection practices
The regulations required by this section shall require that any common carrier that by tariff or contract assigns a telephone number with a prefix or area code designated by the Commission in accordance with subsection (b)(5) to a provider of a pay-per-call service and that offers billing and collection services to such provider—
(1)
ensure that a subscriber is not billed—
(A)
for pay-per-call services that such carrier knows or reasonably should know was provided in violation of the regulations issued pursuant to title II of the Telephone Disclosure and Dispute Resolution Act [
(B)
under such other circumstances as the Commission determines necessary in order to protect subscribers from abusive practices;
(2)
establish a local or a toll-free telephone number to answer questions and provide information on subscribers’ rights and obligations with regard to their use of pay-per-call services and to provide to callers the name and mailing address of any provider of pay-per-call services offered by the common carrier;
(3)
within 60 days after the issuance of final regulations pursuant to subsection (b), provide, either directly or through contract with any local exchange carrier that provides billing or collection services to the common carrier, to all of such common carrier’s telephone subscribers, to all new subscribers, and to all subscribers requesting service at a new location, a disclosure statement that sets forth all rights and obligations of the subscriber and the carrier with respect to the use and payment for pay-per-call services, including the right of a subscriber not to be billed and the applicable blocking option; and
(4)
in any billing to telephone subscribers that includes charges for any pay-per-call service—
(A)
display any charges for pay-per-call services in a part of the subscriber’s bill that is identified as not being related to local and long distance telephone charges;
(B)
for each charge so displayed, specify, at a minimum, the type of service, the amount of the charge, and the date, time, and duration of the call; and
(C)
identify the toll-free number established pursuant to paragraph (2).
(e)
Liability
(1)
Common carriers not liable for transmission or billing
(2)
Civil liability
(f)
Special provisions
(1)
Consumer refund requirements
(2)
Recovery of costs
(3)
Recommendations on data pay-per-call
(g)
Effect on other law
(1)
No preemption of election law
(2)
Consumer protection laws
(3)
Gambling laws
(4)
State authority
(5)
Enforcement of existing regulations
(h)
Effect on dial-a-porn prohibitions
(i)
“Pay-per-call services” defined
For purposes of this section—
(1)
The term “pay-per-call services” means any service—
(A)
in which any person provides or purports to provide—
(i)
audio information or audio entertainment produced or packaged by such person;
(ii)
access to simultaneous voice conversation services; or
(iii)
any service, including the provision of a product, the charges for which are assessed on the basis of the completion of the call;
(B)
for which the caller pays a per-call or per-time-interval charge that is greater than, or in addition to, the charge for transmission of the call; and
(C)
which is accessed through use of a 900 telephone number or other prefix or area code designated by the Commission in accordance with subsection (b)(5).
(2)
Such term does not include directory services provided by a common carrier or its affiliate or by a local exchange carrier or its affiliate, or any service for which users are assessed charges only after entering into a presubscription or comparable arrangement with the provider of such service.
(June 19, 1934, ch. 652, title II, § 228, as added Pub. L. 102–556, title I, § 101, Oct. 28, 1992, 106 Stat. 4182; amended Pub. L. 103–414, title III, § 303(a)(13), (14), Oct. 25, 1994, 108 Stat. 4294; Pub. L. 104–104, title VII, § 701(a)(1), (b)(2), Feb. 8, 1996, 110 Stat. 145, 148.)
cite as: 47 USC 228