Brazilian regulations impose heavy restrictions for premium-priced phone number services. In this article we will detail what are the regulations for this sector and what alternative methods are used to provide premium phone services.
Brazilian Phone Prefixes and Pricing Regulations
There are special number prefixes in Brazil with specific charging policies. All are regulated by Anatel, the Brazilian Telecommunications Agency and can be provided by telephone operators to companies who wish to offer special services through telephone calls.
These prefixes are:
- 0300: National-coverage phone numbers with a single price applied to the entire country. These are referred to as “shared-cost” calls, in which the caller and the receiver share the call charges. Most of these numbers are used by companies that intend to provide customer support services but do not want to be charged for the entire price of the call.
- 0500: Phone numbers directed at donations and with the same pricing policy applied to all regions in the country. Landline calls are charged at BRL 0,39, while cell phone calls are charged at BRL 0,71.
- 0800: Phone numbers that are not charged to the caller. These are very common in Brazil and are mostly provided by companies who offer customer support services with no cost to the end user.
- 0900: Value added service numbers, in which users are not only charged for the call itself but also for the services provided, mostly used for horoscope forecasts and chat rooms.
Since their introduction, 0900 phone numbers became a popular channel for premium phone services in Brazil, charging users special fees per minute with payment handled by the telephone operators.
By the end of the 1990’s, however, a significant number of complaints were directed to companies operating these services, such as imposing extraordinary charges per minute and not providing clear information about the costs and payment methods, which were severe violations of the Brazilian Consumer Defense Code.
This led to the creation of heavy regulatory measures designed to reduce abusive behavior from premium phone services. A law project from 1999 instituted the following requirements for telephone operators who provide 0900 phone numbers:
- Added cost numbers are only accessible by subscribers who submit a written authorization to operators or call an 0800 number provided and agree to take part in these services
- The total charges from these services is not allowed to exceed 25% of the country’s minimum wage value per month
- Adult chat lines or other services that might be detrimental to society’s moral values are not allowed to be offered through these numbers
- Part of the revenue received from these numbers must be directed to the government’s social actions
All these restrictions combined led to the near extinction of value added services offered through 0900 numbers in Brazil. Today, most providers of these services implement a variety of payment methods to circumvent the regulatory measures applied to this sector.
Value Added Services Through Telephone Calls
Most telephone call value added services currently in activity in Brazil provide payment platforms to charge users through channels other than their operator phone bills. One solution implemented by these companies is the creation of websites in which users register personal information and the phone number that will be used for these services, and pay for them using credit card or Paypal.
Another method commonly used by CallTV, or game show TV programing in which viewers are encouraged to participate in quizzes and win prizes, is to have a deal with specific, minor-sized telephone operators in Brazil.
With this method, an ordinary telephone number from a specific region of the country is displayed to the viewers during the game show and is only reachable through said operator. These calls, which are in most cases long-distance connections, are charged unusually higher than their market value by the operator, and the revenue is split between the operator and the showrunners.