Originally phone sex services consisted of a managed network of dispatchers (live or automated) and erotic performers.
Performers would come to a studio where they received a cubicle, coaching, and cash incentives to keep callers on the line longer.
If a customer disputed a charge, the telephone company would usually “forgive” the charge but block the caller from calling any other chat lines.
By 2007 only Verizon, Sprint and AT&T remained in the chat line business in the U. By 2007 Verizon and MCI had merged and only a few chat line companies remained active as a result.
Once means of transmitting payment were developed, phone sex turned into primarily a commercial activity, with customers (overwhelmingly male) and sellers (overwhelmingly female).
Due to the potential for emotional intimacy between those who have engaged in phone sex, it is a matter of some debate whether phone sex is to be considered infidelity when involving a person outside of a committed personal relationship.
In concept they have a lot in common with platforms such as Ebay: the seller provides the picture(s), description, and sets the price, a percentage of which is kept by the platform.
In the sex industry, similar platforms emerged facilitating the selling of used panties and other odoriferous garments, and for "cam" video sessions, in which the customer, for a fee, can direct the woman on the video screen, and for a higher fee, have a private connection (no one can see caller or provider except each other).
Verizon provided billing services to calls made in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and Maine.
AT&T and MCI offered nationwide collection services, with a cap of per call.
The provider provided (say) 10 minutes of service, but got to keep all of the money (say 20 minutes).
When the Internet got relatively mature, sale of any sexual service not involving a minor could be made to anyone not a minor.
The vast majority of modern services in the United States use toll-free numbers whereby clients can dial up to request a call with a particular performer using credit cards, Automated Clearing House systems, and a variety of other billing methods.