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

For example, a "psychic hotline" type of 1-900 number may charge .99 for the first minute and 99 cents for each additional minute.

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.

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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.

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.

At that time, many evening news agencies conducted "pulse polls" for $.50 per call charges and displayed results on television.