Premium-rate telephone numbers are telephone numbers for telephone calls during which certain services are provided, and for which prices higher than normal are charged.
Unlike a normal call, part of the call charge is paid to the service provider, thus enabling businesses to be funded via the calls.
In 1992, the Supreme Court allowed a law passed by Congress that created a block on all 900 numbers that provided adult content, except for those consumers who requested access to a specific number in writing.
At that time, many evening news agencies conducted "pulse polls" for $.50 per call charges and displayed results on television.
One early use was by Saturday Night Live producers for the sketch "Larry the Lobster", featuring Eddie Murphy. AT&T and the producers of SNL split the profits of nearly $250,000.
Adult chat lines (phone sex) and tech support are a very common use of premium-rate numbers.
Other services include directory enquiries, weather forecasts, competitions and voting (especially relating to television shows).
Telephone companies typically offer blocking services to allow telephone customers to prevent access to these number ranges from their telephones.