TELECOM Digest OnLine - Sorted: Re: Payphone Surcharges to call Toll-Free Numbers

Re: Payphone Surcharges to call Toll-Free Numbers

Anthony Bellanga (
Fri, 30 Dec 2005 15:41:26 -0700

PAT: *PLEASE* suppress my email address in the "from" line.

In reply to John Levine, TELECOM Digest Editor noted:

> [TELECOM Digest Editor's Note: Wait a minute ... either an 800 call is
> a 'free call' to the caller or it is a chargeable call to the
> caller. One or the other. If it costs me 35 cents, then it should be
> referred to as a 'premium charge' call rather than a 'toll free' call
> shouldn't it? How does the recipient of the call know that the call
> is originating from a COCOT style phone instead of a 'regular' line?
> How does that fact (COCOT instead of regular) make any difference
> where what the carriage costs telco? Or is that 35 cents only to
> appease the COCOT owner? PAT]

If you read what John Levine posted, I think he was clear that the
"holder" of that 800 (or 888, 877, 866, etc) number is the one who
not only pays a fee for receiving calls (usually a small per-call
charge, but maybe per-minute or a maybe a "fixed" monthly fee for a
"bulk" of inbound calls), as well as that "toll-free-number 'holder'"
also must pay the additional per-call fee if the caller placed the call
from a pay phone. The calling party (usually) does NOT pay extra to
call an 800, 888, 877, 866, etc. number from a payphone, although SOME
private payhone owners have been known (at least in the past) to demand
an extra 25-c or whatever even though the owner of that private payphone
doesn't pay a penny for the call to that toll-free 800, 888, 877, 866
number to be placed from their payphone.

The toll-free number "holder", i.e., the recipient usually has no way of
knowing that the call came from a payphone and that they might have to
pay more to receive that call, paid to the owner of the private payphone
via the long distance carrier who handles the toll-free service. But if
the 800/888/877/866/etc. number "holder" is a big business with realtime
delivery of ANI information, they probably also have realtime deliver of
the FULL ANI which includes additional digits or parameters along with
the ten-digit billing number of the calling party. These additional
digits are referred to as the 'II' or Information Integers. They
represent the "class of service" of the calling line, i.e., single party
residential, business, ANI failure for the calling party, multi-party
calling line, hotel/motel line, hospital bed, prison phone, university
dorm extension, regular business PBX or Centrex, Operator Handled,
coinless "credit card" phone, telco owned payphone, and privately owned
(COCOT) payphone, as well as dozens of other sub-classes. Most small
businesses with 800/888/877/866/etc. numbers wouldn't have realtime
delivery of ANI and ANI-II data. Virtually all residential customers who
have a "personal" 800/888/877/866/etc. number wouldn't require such
detailed realtime information neither.

However, when you get your bill, depending on your carrier for your
inbound 800/888/etc. service, you should get some kind of ten-digit
number of each inbound call to your toll-free number. And, as John points
out, if the call originated from a payphone subject to compensation to
the owner of that payphone, there is usually some kind of footnote
flagging next to that number indicating such. And the cost of the call
would also reflect the increased price.

I don't know about all long distance carriers, but AT&T will allow a
holder of an 800/888/etc. number (whether big business, small
business, or a residential customer with a "personal"
800/888/etc. number), to be able to have AT&T *BLOCK* access to their
toll-free number if the caller is at a payphone. This would be based
on the ANI-II data that is sent from the calling payphone's telco over
to AT&T. If I try calling that (payphone restricted) toll-free number
from a payhone, I will get a intercepted by AT&T (or whoever) with an
announcement that the called 800/888/etc. toll-free party does not
accept calls from payphones, and to try to place the call from another
phone. And then I'm disconnected. I'm not even given the option to
"somehow pay" the extorted additional charge for calling that
number. Even if I am using my own AT&T or local telco calling card to
call a toll-free number (it sounds weird to try to call a toll-free
number with a card but read on)... where I would "agree" to pay the
extra surcharge on my calling card, AT&T won't allow that.

About the only thing is that if I use an 800/888/877/866/etc. number
to access a long distance carrier's card platform, or use 0+ or 0-, or
950-xxxx, to place an outgoing call to a POTS telephone number from a
payphone, where I would pay the toll charges on my card rather than
with coins (or collect), as the caller and user of the card (and
carrier's access numbers or codes), I will incurr the payphone
compensation extored surcharge via my long distance carrier / card
issuer's billing, in addition to the card charge for the call. Even if
I use the toll-free access number once and make several "sequence"
calls on a single "session" to different destination numbers, most
carriers will ding me the payphone compensation surcharge for each
(completed) call. However, my simply dialing 1-800-CALL-ATT, even if I
put in a card number, does not "in and of itself" ding me the extorted
surcharge if none of my attempts to reach specific destination numbers
don't return answer supervision -- i.e., are busy, don't answer, or
reach a non supervising vacant or intercept type recording. However, I
don't know if AT&T or whoever is liable for compensating the payphone
owner for such non-supervised incomplete call attempts. The owner of
the COCOT might keep their own "log" of all attempts to call
particular 800/888/etc. toll-free numbers in the chip circuits inside
the phone.

Anyhow, regardless of what some might think, I would tend to think
that most people who have been hit with such charges in recent years,
whether they are toll-free number holders, or else calling parties
making card calls from payphones, would tend to refer to this practice
as extortion. I have had a very low opinion of the private (COCOT)
payphone industry for many years, and if I had my way, I'd put such
private payphone owners in Abu Ghraib prison for the rest of their

Finally, the other sleazeballs, those toll-free number "holders" who
provide sex or psycho "services" and charge back to the calling party
somehow ... these always seem to reject calls to their 800/888/etc.
numbers that are originated from payphones altogather. Many of them were
rejecting payphone originated calls long before the sleazy private
payphone industry convinved the government and telco industry that they
had the right to demand "tribute" money extorted from the telephone using

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