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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.
Earlier, 976 numbers used 976 as a local prefix (970 or 540 in some markets like New York state), though it was not assigned to a specific telephone exchange like other prefixes.
These numbers were dialed as any other number, such as 976-1234.
Diplomatic services, such as the US Embassy in London or the UK Embassy in Washington, have also charged premium rates for calls from the general public.
In many European countries, for example France, Germany and the United Kingdom, it was common for organisations to operate customer service lines on premium-rate numbers using prefixes that fall outside the scope of the country's premium-rate number regulations.
Adult chat lines (phone sex) and tech support are a very common use of premium-rate numbers.
These telephone numbers are usually allocated from a national telephone numbering plan in such a way that they are easily distinguished from other numbers.
Computer criminals have used premium-rate numbers to defraud unsuspecting Internet users.
One scheme involved inducing users to download a program known as a dialer that surreptitiously dialed a premium-rate number, accumulating charges on the user's phone bill without their knowledge.
Telephone companies typically offer blocking services to allow telephone customers to prevent access to these number ranges from their telephones.
In some jurisdictions, telephone companies are required by law to offer such blocking.
Initially, consumers had no choice regarding the accessibility to 900/976 numbers on their phones.