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Pay Phone Calls


Consumers who make calls away from home should be aware that the long distance and local rates charged from payphones and phones in other public areas like hotels, motels, hospitals and airports can vary. Operator service providers provide long distance service and, in some cases, local telephone service from public and pay telephones. When you place a call from a public phone or pay phone, the operator service provider serving the telephone usually handles the call if you dial "0" before dialing the telephone number. In order to avoid surprises when you receive your telephone bill, here are three simple rules which the Federal Communications Commission recommends all consumers follow:

  • Stop before making the call.
  • Look at the printed information on or near the telephone. Federal Communications Commission rules require each public telephone provider to post on or near each telephone – in plain view of consumers – the name, address, and toll-free number of the operator service provider.
  • Listen after you dial the number you are calling to determine which operator service provider is handling your call. The operator service provider must orally identify itself to you at the beginning of the call before the call is connected and billed. You will then be told how to learn the total price of a telephone call – including any surcharges – by simply pressing no more than 2 digits, such as the pound key, or by staying on the line. This gives you the opportunity to hang up on high rates and to "dial around" the operator service provider by following your chosen long distance company’s instructions for placing calls from public telephones (e.g., dial 1-800-XXX-XXXX to reach your chosen long distance carrier; punch in your access code; etc.)

Other things to keep in mind when making calls from a pay phone or public telephone include:

  • You have the right to place calls from a public telephone through the long distance company of your choice by dialing an access code, sometimes referred to as "dialing around" the operator service provider. "Dialing around" may mean dialing an 800 number, a local number that begins with 950, or a seven digit access number known as a 101-XXXX or 10 10 XXX number. Federal law prohibits blocking 800, 950, or 101-XXXX/10 10 XXX access numbers to long distance companies from public telephones.
  • Operator service providers must connect an emergency call to the appropriate emergency service immediately and at no charge.
  • Operator service providers cannot knowingly bill for unanswered calls.
  • No matter what type of calling card you use, the only way to be sure that your call will be carried by your chosen long distance company is to follow your long distance company’s dialing instructions for placing calls from public telephones. Using your preferred long distance company’s calling card will not, by itself, guarantee that that company will carry the call. Check with your preferred long distance company and ask for instructions on how to place a call through that company from a payphone and what the rates or charges are for calls placed from payphones. They may not be the same as the rates you pay for calls you dial directly from your home.

List of Authorized Payphone Providers


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