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Dialing an 800 number from outside the USA
Sr. Member

Why is it that when someone calls an 800 number to the US from ANY place outside the US (other numbers go through fine). This is not with every 800 number but it happens a lot. This is not device specific or location specific. The nessage received when the call is attempted is in the local language signifying the error that the call cannot be placed. The dialing pattern is correct and the device is able to make other international calls.

I have looked in quite a few places for info on this but have come up empty so far.

So the question is...why are 800 numbers so hard to be reaqched while calling from outside the US?

Labels (1)
Re: Dialing an 800 number from outside the USA
Customer Support

What a great question because I also ran across this problem while traveling internationally.

The best reason I could find via Google is this:

Calls to a toll free (also known as freephone/freecall) number are paid for by the receiver of the call, making them free for you, the caller. However, when dialing such a number from another country, you (the caller) will be charged international rates. So the call is no longer free when dialed from abroad. This is the reason why some long distance carriers/toll free number owners choose to block receiving international calls and generally advise their international callers to contact them on a regular telephone number.


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Re: Dialing an 800 number from outside the USA
Sr. Leader
Sr. Leader

800 numbers are free to the caller, the receiver of the call pays the charges for the call.

Most companies are willing to pay these charges when the call initiates from within the US and the call goes through.

Most companies ARE NOT willing to pay these charges when the call initiates from outside of the US because these charges can be MUCH higher. They are not willing to pay the additional cost for international calls.

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Re: Dialing an 800 number from outside the USA

In general you cannot call 800 numbers from outside the U.S. or Canada.  They are intended for domestic calls that will be paid for by the receiver of the call.  But there is a well documented work-around that involves substituting special area codes for each of the toll-free area codes used in the U.S.  This enables you to complete a call from outside the U.S. to the business you want to reach.  Dial 880 if your toll-free number begins with 800. Dial 881 for an 888 number. Dial 882 for an 877 number and dial 883 for all 866 numbers.  Your call will then be handled as any other call from outside the U.S. to a U.S. number.  The problem is that the Verizon's billing computers cannot handle this and virtually no customer service reps are aware of this alternate method.

On at trip to Mexico earlier this year, I made calls to three numbers in the U.S. using the alternate area codes.  The calls went right through without a hitch.  My Verizon calling plan includes Canada and Mexico, so there should have been no charge for these calls.  However, my next bill showed that I had been charged $450.00 for these calls which were listed as calls to Iridium satellite numbers.  Over the next three months I repeatedly called Verizon about the incorrect billing.  No one knew anything about using these area codes.  Three different reps promised to call me back in a couple of days after researching my issue, but they never did.  I asked one for a mailing address to send a written explanation to Verizon.  I was told that there was no place to mail such a letter, and if I did send a letter it would not be read and would just end up in a warehouse.  She gave me an email address and told me to send my documents to her to be forwarded to the proper department.  I did so, but never received a reply.  Subsequently I found a Verizon billing address, and I mailed an extensively documented letter to Verizon.  When I still had not received a reply after another month, I filed a complaint with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).  On the next business day, I received a call from a Verizon senior executive relations person (who only identified himself by first name and last initial).  He told me he would investigate and contact me again in two days, and he did.  At that time he told me that my complaint was related to a known billing issue.  He acknowledged that I was correct and that he had issued a credit of $450.00 to my account.  When I asked if I were to make similar calls the next time I go to Mexico, would I be able to do so without a similar recurrence,  he told me that he could not guarantee that this would not happen again!

I should also add that back at the beginning of the dispute, I paid the undisputed portion of my bill and notified Verizon that I was withholding payment of the disputed amount pending investigation of my complaint.  Verizon then began mailing and texting me, threatening to cut off my service if I did not pay the disputed balance immediately.  I capitulated and paid because I was worried that they would harm my credit rating.

Furthermore, I never received an apology, nor did I receive any kind of offer of compensation for the time-consuming hassle they put me through. I suppose I should be happy that I got my $450.00 back

So the take-home points are

1)  You can make calls to U.S. 800 numbers from outside the country using alternate area codes that were designed for this specific purpose.  Your call should be billed as any other toll call from your international location to the United States.

2)  Verizon may not bill you correctly for such calls.

3)  If Verizon fails to bill correctly, you are not likely to find a customer service representative who understands the issue.

4)  Filing an on-line complaint with the FCC seems to be the best and fastest way to resolve the problem.

Re: Dialing an 800 number from outside the USA

Tamara's answer is correct as far as it goes, but I think that the OP was really interested in HOW to successfully reach 800 numbers when calling from outside the U.S., not just in knowing why it was difficult to reach them.  Tamara's polite answer confirms my statement in Response #3 below that Verizon support personnel are woefully uninformed about the issue.  Limited information such as this response provides is almost as bad as no information at all.

Anyone who wants to know how to call U.S. toll-free numbers (which aren't toll-free when called from outside the U.S.) when traveling abroad, should read response #3 and write down the alternate area codes, and keep them for future use when traveling outside of the U.S.