Avoiding 900 or 976 Call Fraud

The service

A 900 service enables customers to connect to phone numbers that start with 1-900 for pay-per-call services. Pay-per-call services include live and pre-recorded services such as adult chat lines, vote casting, psychic consultations, horoscopes, soap opera updates, games, donations processing, sports scores, weather forecasts, translation, and medical, legal or government services. 

These services are offered by third parties called 900 content providers. 900 content providers pay the telephone companies to use their networks.

976 service is also a pay-per-call service, which is provided only by Bell Canada in Ontario and Quebec.

Rules for 900 and 976 services are not exactly the same. For example, provincial laws about what collection agencies aren't allowed to do are part of the 976 service rules but not the 900 service rules. Contact your telephone company for more information on the specific rules for the 900/976 services you use.

Consumer safeguards

Charges must be identified

All advertisements for 900/976 services must indicate the charges for making a call.

When you make a 900/976 call by phone or a 900 call via the Internet, you must receive clear and complete information on charges and when they will begin.

If you access a 900 service via the Internet, you must also be presented with an "I Agree" dialogue box or other way to clearly indicate your explicit consent to proceed with the call.

Billing information and practices

Some 900 services bill customers directly. Others bill customers through a telephone company or another third party. No matter who bills you, when you receive a bill for calls to a 900 service, it must fully describe all charges plus the time, date and length of each call.  

All bills for 900 service must follow the same rules concerning safeguards and disclosure of information.

First-time waiver

900 content providers and telephone companies providing 900/976 services must waive all reasonably disputed charges for first-time disputes with their customers. Companies must also tell these customers about the call blocking feature that prevents calls being made from their phone to 900/976 services.

Blocking service

Telephone companies providing 900/976 service must offer the call-blocking feature for free the first time it's requested. After that, the company can charge $10 for any further requests to add or remove the feature. 

Check with your telephone company for details about call blocking for 900/976 services.

Information for consumers

Telephone companies providing 900 services must include information about these services on their Web sites. Residential phone directories must also include a reference to 900/976 services, including a statement that consumers may contact their telephone service provider for more information about them.

The reference must also remind customers that:

  • 900/976 calls are provided to customers for a charge
  • call blocking options are available
  • customers may dispute the charges

In addition, the CRTC reminds parents to caution their children not to call a 900 service without permission.

Other protections for 900 services customers

  • 900 content providers can't link their 900 services to toll-free numbers. This prevents toll-free callers from being billed without being aware of the charges.
  • 900 content providers can't use programs with repetitive scripts, long holding periods, excessive wording or long downloading features to prolong the call and increase charges.

CRTC regulations and rate caps reduce consumer risk

The CRTC has set maximum rates, charges and regulations to help reduce the risks for 900 callers:

  • the maximum rate for calls to psychic lines is $6 per minute
  • the maximum charge for games of chance is $5 per call
  • providers of games of chance must tell callers about any available alternate ways of playing the game that do not involve calling a 900 number

What if you don't agree you owe money for a 900/976 call?

First, contact the telephone company and 900/976 content provider to request that the charge be waived.

If you're not satisfied with the response, you can contact the CRTC. See How to make a complaint about your telephone service.

What if your phone company threatens to disconnect your local service for unpaid 900/976 service charges?

If your local telephone service provider is one of the original phone companies that existed prior to today's competitive market (e.g., Bell Aliant, Bell Canada, Sasktel, MTS Allstream and Telus), the following rules apply:

  • your local service can't be disconnected if you've paid for the part of your phone bill that covers local service, 911, call display and other calling features you may subscribe to
  • if you disagree with charges on your bill (for example, 900 services or Internet charges), follow the phone company's dispute procedure; but you must still pay the undisputed charges of the bill
  • the telephone company may limit your long-distance calls, or use other legal means to try to recover outstanding amounts, but they can't cut off your local service

Do telephone companies have to connect 900/976 services?

Upon request, telephone companies must connect a customer to their networks, according to their terms of service.

These companies must also monitor 900/976 content providers and cut off those that don't comply with all terms and conditions. Connection can also be denied to a 900/976 service provider if it has broken Canadian laws. 

For more information on these services, contact your local telephone company directly.